Software attestations

A software attestation is an authenticated statement (metadata) about a software artifact or collection of software artifacts. The primary intended use case is to feed into automated policy engines, such as in-toto and Binary Authorization.

This page provides a high-level overview of the attestation model, including standardized terminology, data model, layers, and conventions for software attestations.


A software attestation, not to be confused with a remote attestation in the trusted computing world, is an authenticated statement (metadata) about a software artifact or collection of software artifacts. Software attestations are a generalization of raw artifact/code signing.

With raw signing, a signature is directly over the artifact (or a hash of the artifact) and implies a single bit of metadata about the artifact, based on the public key. The exact meaning MUST be negotiated between signer and verifier, and a new keyset MUST be provisioned for each bit of information. For example, a signature might denote who produced an artifact, or it might denote fitness for some purpose, or something else entirely.

With an attestation, the metadata is explicit and the signature only denotes who created the attestation (authenticity). A single keyset can express an arbitrary amount of information, including things that are not possible with raw signing. For example, an attestation might state exactly how an artifact was produced, including the build command that was run and all of its dependencies (as in the case of SLSA Provenance).

Model and Terminology

We define the following model to represent any software attestations, regardless of format. Not all formats will have all fields or all layers, but to be called a “software attestation” it MUST fit this general model.

The key words MUST, SHOULD, and MAY are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.

Attestation model diagram

An example of an attestation in English follows with the components of the attestation mapped to the component names (and colors from the model diagram above):

Attestation model to English mapping


  • Artifact: Immutable blob of data described by an attestation, usually identified by cryptographic content hash. Examples: file content, git commit, container digest. MAY also include a mutable locator, such as a package name or URI.
  • Attestation: Authenticated, machine-readable metadata about one or more software artifacts. An attestation MUST contain at least:
    • Envelope: Authenticates the message. At a minimum, it MUST contain:
      • Message: Content (statement) of the attestation. The message type SHOULD be authenticated and unambiguous to avoid confusion attacks.
      • Signature: Denotes the attester who created the attestation.
    • Statement: Binds the attestation to a particular set of artifacts. This is a separate layer to allow for predicate-agnostic processing and storage/lookup. MUST contain at least:
      • Subject: Identifies which artifacts the predicate applies to.
      • Predicate: Metadata about the subject. The predicate type SHOULD be explicit to avoid misinterpretation.
    • Predicate: Arbitrary metadata in a predicate-specific schema. MAY contain:
      • Link: (repeated) Reference to a related artifact, such as build dependency. Effectively forms a hypergraph where the nodes are artifacts and the hyperedges are attestations. It is helpful for the link to be standardized to allow predicate-agnostic graph processing.
  • Bundle: A collection of Attestations, which are usually but not necessarily related.
  • Storage/Lookup: Convention for where attesters place attestations and how verifiers find attestations for a given artifact.

We recommend a single suite of formats and conventions that work well together and have desirable security properties. Our hope is to align the industry around this particular suite because it makes everything easier. That said, we recognize that other choices MAY be necessary in various cases.

Component Recommendation
Envelope DSSE (TODO: Recommend Crypto/PKI)
Statement in-toto attestations
Predicate Choose as appropriate, i.e.; Provenance, SPDX, other predicates defined by third-parties. If none are a good fit, invent a new one
Bundle JSON Lines, see attestation bundle
Storage/Lookup TBD