SLSA is organized into a series of levels that provide increasing integrity guarantees. This gives you confidence that software hasn’t been tampered with and can be securely traced back to its source.
This page is an informative overview of the SLSA levels, describing their purpose and guarantees. For the normative requirements at each level, see Requirements.
What is SLSA?
SLSA is a set of incrementally adoptable security guidelines, established by industry consensus. The standards set by SLSA are guiding principles for both software producers and consumers: producers can follow the guidelines to make their software more secure, and consumers can make decisions based on a software package’s security posture. SLSA’s four levels are designed to be incremental and actionable, and to protect against specific integrity attacks. SLSA 4 represents the ideal end state, and the lower levels represent milestones with corresponding integrity guarantees.
Summary of levels
|1||Documentation of the build process||Unsigned provenance|
|2||Tamper resistance of the build service||Hosted source/build, signed provenance|
|3||Extra resistance to specific threats||Security controls on host, non-falsifiable provenance|
|4||Highest levels of confidence and trust||Two-party review + hermetic builds|
It can take years to achieve the ideal security state - intermediate milestones are important. SLSA guides you through gradually improving the security of your software. Artifacts used in critical infrastructure or vital business operations may want to attain a higher level of security, whereas software that poses a low risk can stop when they’re comfortable.
|0||No guarantees. SLSA 0 represents the lack of any SLSA level.|
|1||The build process must be fully scripted/automated and generate provenance. Provenance is metadata about how an artifact was built, including the build process, top-level source, and dependencies. Knowing the provenance allows software consumers to make risk-based security decisions. Provenance at SLSA 1 does not protect against tampering, but it offers a basic level of code source identification and can aid in vulnerability management.|
|2||Requires using version control and a hosted build service that generates authenticated provenance. These additional requirements give the software consumer greater confidence in the origin of the software. At this level, the provenance prevents tampering to the extent that the build service is trusted. SLSA 2 also provides an easy upgrade path to SLSA 3.|
|3||The source and build platforms meet specific standards to guarantee the auditability of the source and the integrity of the provenance respectively. We envision an accreditation process whereby auditors certify that platforms meet the requirements, which consumers can then rely on. SLSA 3 provides much stronger protections against tampering than earlier levels by preventing specific classes of threats, such as cross-build contamination.|
|4||Requires two-person review of all changes and a hermetic, reproducible build process. Two-person review is an industry best practice for catching mistakes and deterring bad behavior. Hermetic builds guarantee that the provenance’s list of dependencies is complete. Reproducible builds, though not strictly required, provide many auditability and reliability benefits. Overall, SLSA 4 gives the consumer a high degree of confidence that the software has not been tampered with.|
The SLSA level is not transitive (see our FAQs). This makes each artifact’s SLSA rating independent from one another, allowing parallel progress and prioritization based on risk. The level describes the integrity protections of an artifact’s build process and top-level source, but nothing about the artifact’s dependencies. Dependencies have their own SLSA ratings, and it is possible for a SLSA 4 artifact to be built from SLSA 0 dependencies.
SLSA can help reduce supply chain threats in a software artifact, but there are limitations.
- There are a significant number of dependencies in the supply chain for many artifacts. The full graph of dependencies could be intractably large.
- In practice, a team working on security will need to identify and focus on the important components in a supply chain. This can be performed manually, but the effort could be significant.
- An artifact’s SLSA level is not transitive (see our FAQs) and dependencies have their own SLSA ratings. This means that it is possible for a SLSA 4 artifact to be built from SLSA 0 dependencies. So, while the main artifact has strong security, risks may still exist elsewhere. The aggregate of these risks will help software consumers understand how and where to use the SLSA 4 artifact.
- While automation of these tasks will help, it isn’t practical for every software consumer to fully vet the entire graph of every artifact. To close this gap, auditors and accreditation bodies could verify and assert that something meets the SLSA requirements. This could be particularly valuable for closed source software.
As part of our roadmap, we’ll explore how to identify important components, how to determine aggregate risk throughout a supply chain, and the role of accreditation.