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Operating Systems

On Risk in Access Control Enforcement

By Giuseppe Petracca (PhD) and Frank Capobianco (PhD Candidate).

While we have long had principles describing how access control enforcement should be implemented, such as the reference monitor concept, imprecision in access control mechanisms and access control policies leads to risks that may enable exploitation. In practice, least privilege access control policies o‰en allow information ƒows that may enable exploits. In addition, the implementation of access control mechanisms often tries to balance security with ease of use implicitly (e.g., with respect to determining where to place authorization hooks) and approaches to tighten access control, such as accounting for program context, are ad hoc. In this paper, we define four types of risks in access control enforcement and explore possible approaches and challenges in tracking those types of risks. In principle, we advocate runtime tracking to produce risk estimates for each of these types of risk. To better understand the potential of risk estimation for authorization, we propose risk estimate functions for each of the four types of risk, €nding that benign program deployments accumulate risks in each of the four areas for ten Android programs examined. As a result, we €find that tracking of relative risk may be useful for guiding changes to security choices, such as authorized unsafe operations or placement of authorization checks, when risk di‚ers from that expected.

On Risk in Access Control Enforcement was published in SACMAT 2017.