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4th USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies—Abstract

Pp. 169–182 of the Proceedings

A Security Model for Full-Text File System Search in Multi-User Environments

Stefan Büttcher and Charles L. A. Clarke, University of Waterloo


Most desktop search systems maintain per-user indices to keep track of file contents. In a multi-user environment, this is not a viable solution, because the same file has to be indexed many times, once for every user that may access the file, causing both space and performance problems. Having a single system-wide index for all users, on the other hand, allows for efficient indexing but requires special security mechanisms to guarantee that the search results do not violate any file permissions.

We present a security model for full-text file system search, based on the UNIX security model, and discuss two possible implementations of the model. We show that the first implementation, based on a postprocessing approach, allows an arbitrary user to obtain information about the content of files for which he does not have read permission. The second implementation does not share this problem. We give an experimental performance evaluation for both implementations and point out query optimization opportunities for the second one.

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