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, conventions for software attestations, and formats for different use cases.


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).


This section explains how to choose the attestation format that’s best suited for your situation by considering factors such as intended use and who will be consuming the attestation.

First party

Producers of first party code might consider the following questions:

  • Will SLSA be used only within our organization?
  • Is SLSA’s primary use case to manage insider risk?
  • Are we developing entirely in a closed source environment?

If these are the main considerations, the organization can choose any format for internal use. To make an external claim of meeting a SLSA level, however, there needs to be a way for external users to consume and verify your provenance. Currently, SLSA recommends using the SLSA Provenance format for SLSA attestations since it is easy to verify using the Generic SLSA Verifier.

Open source

Producers of open source code might consider these questions:

  • Is SLSA’s primary use case to convey trust in how your code was developed?
  • Do you develop software with standard open source licenses?
  • Will the code be consumed by others?

In these situations, we encourage you to use the SLSA Provenance format. The SLSA Provenance format offers a path towards interoperability and cohesion across the open source ecosystem. Users can verify any provenance statement in this format using the Generic SLSA Verifier.

Closed source, third party

Producers of closed source code that is consumed by others might consider the following questions:

  • Is my code produced for the sole purpose of specific third party consumers?
  • Is SLSA’s primary use case to create trust in our organization or to comply with audits and legal requirements?

In these situations, you might not want to make all the details of your provenance available externally. Consider using Verification Summary Attestations (VSAs) to summarize provenance information in a sanitized way that’s safe for external consumption. For more about VSAs, see the Verification Summary Attestation page.

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 (ECDSA over NIST P-256 (or stronger) and SHA-256.)
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