Jail - Section 3
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3.  Other Solutions to the Root Problem

      Many operating systems attempt to address these limitations by providing fine-grained access controls for system resources [BIBA]. These efforts vary in degrees of success, but almost all suffer from at least three serious limitations:

      First, increasing the granularity of security controls increases the complexity of the administration process, in turn increasing both the opportunity for incorrect configuration, as well as the demand on administrator time and resources. In many cases, the increased complexity results in significant frustration for the administrator, which may result in two disastrous types of policy: ``all doors open as it's too much trouble'', and ``trust that the system is secure, when in fact it isn't''.

      The extent of the trouble is best illustrated by the fact that an entire niche industry has emerged providing tools to manage fine grained security controls [UAS].

      Second, usefully segregating capabilities and assigning them to running code and users is very difficult. Many privileged operations in UNIX seem independent, but are in fact closely related, and the handing out of one privilege may, in effect, be transitive to the many others. For example, in some trusted operating systems, a system capability may be assigned to a running process to allow it to read any file, for the purposes of backup. However, this capability is, in effect, equivalent to the ability to switch to any other account, as the ability to access any file provides access to system keying material, which in turn provides the ability to authenticate as any user. Similarly, many operating systems attempt to segregate management capabilities from auditing capabilities. In a number of these operating systems, however, ``management capabilities'' permit the administrator to assign ``auditing capabilities'' to itself, or another account, circumventing the segregation of capability.

      Finally, introducing new security features often involves introducing new security management APIs. When fine-grained capabilities are introduced to replace the setuid mechanism in UNIX-like operating systems, applications that previously did an ``appropriateness check'' to see if they were running as root before executing must now be changed to know that they need not run as root. In the case of applications running with privilege and executing other programs, there is now a new set of privileges that must be voluntarily given up before executing another program. These change can introduce significant incompatibility for existing applications, and make life more difficult for application developers who may not be aware of differing security semantics on different systems [POSIX1e].

 

 

My name is Michael Oliver, and I can be contacted by email here.
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