Improving Logging to Reduce Permission Over-Granting Mistakes


Bingyu Shen, Tianyi Shan, and Yuanyuan Zhou, University of California, San Diego


Access control configurations are gatekeepers to block unwelcome access to sensitive data. Unfortunately, system administrators (sysadmins) sometimes over-grant permissions when resolving unintended access-deny issues reported by legitimate users, which may open up security vulnerabilities for attackers. One of the primary reasons is that modern software does not provide informative logging to guide sysadmins to understand the reported problems.

This paper makes one of the first attempts (to the best of our knowledge) to help developers improve log messages in order to help sysadmins correctly understand and fix access-deny issues without over-granting permissions. First, we conducted an observation study to understand the current practices of access-deny logging in the server software. Our study shows that many access-control program locations do not have any log messages; and a large percentage of existing log messages lack useful information to guide sysadmins to correctly understand and fix the issues. On top of our observations, we built SECLOG, which uses static analysis to automatically help developers find missing access-deny log locations and identify relevant information at the log location.

We evaluated SECLOG with ten widely deployed server applications. Overall, SECLOG identified 380 new log statements for access-deny cases, and also enhanced 550 existing access-deny log messages with diagnostic information. We have reported 114 log statements to the developers of these applications, and so far 70 have been accepted into their main branches. We also conducted a user study with sysadmins (n=32) on six real-world access-deny issues. SECLOG can reduce the number of insecure fixes from 27 to 1, and also improve the diagnosis time by 64.2% on average.

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {285347,
author = {Bingyu Shen and Tianyi Shan and Yuanyuan Zhou},
title = {Improving Logging to Reduce Permission {Over-Granting} Mistakes},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {409--426},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug