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7th USENIX Security Symposium, San Antonio, Texas

Unified Support for Heterogeneous Security Policies in Distributed Systems

Naftaly H. Minsky and Victoria Ungureanu
Rutgers University


Modern distributed systems tend to be conglomerates of heterogeneous subsystems, which have been designed separately, by different people, with little, if any, knowledge of each other - and which may be governed by different security policies. A single software agent operating within such a system may find itself interacting with, or even belonging to, several subsystems, and thus be subject to several disparate policies. If every such policy is expressed by means of a different formalism and enforced with a different mechanism, the situation can get easily out of hand.

To deal with this problem we propose in this paper a security mechanism that can support effciently, and in a unified manner, a wide range of security models and policies, including: conventional discretionary models that use capabilities or access-control lists, mandatory lattice-based access control models, and the more sophisticated models and policies required for commercial applications. Moreover, under the proposed mechanism, a single agent may be involved in several different modes of interactions that are subject to disparate security policies.

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