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Version: 1.0


wasmCloud embraces a zero trust security model. This means that the runtime, by default, does not trust any component with the ability to do anything. Without adding security claims to a component, the component cannot send or receive messages in a wasmCloud runtime environment.

Embedding JSON web tokens

Every component in the ecosystem is a WebAssembly component that contains an embedded JSON Web Token. These tokens have a standard set of required fields, including:

  • Issuer - As the name implies, the issuer of the token. The JWT specification requires only that this be a string.
  • Subject - The subject is the subject of the token, the identity of the thing to which the token corresponds.
  • Not Valid Before - A timestamp indicating that a token cannot be used until a given time/date.
  • Expiration - A timestamp indicating when a token will expire.

In our ecosystem, the issuer of a component is the unique public key of an account (see the Key Types section below), and the subject of a component is the component's public key.

The wash tool is responsible for creating keys and extracting and embeddeding signed JWTs within components.

Each JWT embedded within a component is cryptographically signed using the ed25519 signature algorithm. For information on why we chose this method of security over others, please check out our Archictural Decision Record.

Component identity

As you may have picked up from reading about ed25519 keys and encryption, this is an asymmetric process. What wasmCloud uses is a fit-for-purpose implementation of Public Key Infrastructure. This means that each component is given a private key, called a seed key in ed25519 terminology (you will likely see the word seed appear multiple times in our tooling). Each seed corresponds to one globally unique public key.

This means that if an account (the issuer of a component's embedded JWT) signs a token using its private key, then we can use the account's public key to verify the signature on the JWT. This has the added benefit of making JWT's verifiable in public. That is, they contain no secrets, but cannot be created without access to secrets. This makes them an ideal format for bearer-type credentials and claims in a model of decentralized security.

Further, since one of the claims (discussed next) in the token is a hash of the unaltered bytes of the WebAssembly component, we can tell if a signed component has been tampered with because we can detect if the hash field has changed because that would invalidate the signature.


In addition to the standard claims required by all JSON Web Token (JWT)s, wasmCloud adds an additional claim field called wascap (wasmCloud capabilities). All wasmCloud-related metadata exists under this field in the token's JSON structure. The following JSON shows the metadata field for one of our sample actors:

  "jti": "l9Zs9GoqtfRomuPSrhe9eT",
  "iat": 1586451767,
  "wascap": {
    "name": "Key Value Counter",
    "hash": "4B4BCE3588955E068DC9D32382C8727CBF46819C907AB3A1630ED7B97C530D13",
    "tags": [],
    "prov": false

Managing Keys

The act of key management could be a book or tome all its own. In short, managing keys in wasmCloud involves managing the 57-character plain ASCII strings that represent the developer-friendly encoding of ed25519 keys. The entire security system of wasmCloud is designed around the idea that, while running in a production (or any) environment, no private key access is required. You will never need to expose a private key to any portion of your running environment.

That said, you will need to ensure that offline access to your keys is secured. Your choice for how you do that is entirely up to you and the needs of your organization.

Key Types

wasmCloud uses a special, user-friendly encoding for ed25519 keys that is identical to the encoding used by NATS for its 2.0+ decentralized security mechanism. This encoding uses all uppercase letters with an S prefix for seeds followed by a key type prefix. An underrated benefit of this key encoding mechanism is that keys are double-clickable for easy copy-and-paste on most operating systems and a fixed length.

While the number of key encodings available is larger than this list, the following are key types that may be of interest to wasmcloud developers:

  • Component (Module) - Produces public keys with the M prefix.
  • Account - Produces public keys with the A prefix, typically used as issuers of components.
  • Capability Provider (Service) - Produces public keys with the V prefix.
  • Server/Node - Produces public keys with the N (node) prefix, used by the host runtime.
  • Operator - Produces public keys with the O prefix.
  • Cluster - Produces public keys with the C prefix, used by the lattice.

As mentioned, by convention, component tokens are issued by accounts. Accounts are, by convention, issued by operators. Services (capability providers) are also issued/signed by accounts. Servers (wasmcloud processes/nodes) are currently self-issued/self-signed, leaving the crucial lattice security up to the Cluster keys.