Architecture for Data-Centric Security
Speaker: Yu-Yuan Chen
Series: Final Public Orals
Location: Engineering Quadrangle J401
Date/Time: Friday, October 12, 2012, 2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
In todays computing environment, we use various applications on our various computing devices to process our data. However, we can only implicitly trust that the applications do not do anything harmful or violate our desired confidentiality policy for the data, especially when those applications are run on todays feature-rich and monolithic commodity operating systems. In this thesis, we present two approaches with and without modifying the applications that aim to provide data confidentiality protection after the data is given to an authorized recipient a problem which we refer to as illegal secondary dissemination. We also aim for the protection of the data throughout its lifetime.
The first approach follows the school of thought of providing a secure execution compartment for the security-critical part of an application. We propose to use the hardware to directly protect a trusted component of an application, which in turn controls access to the protected data, on top of an untrusted operating system. We devise a methodology for trust-partitioning an existing application into the trusted component, leaving the rest of the application untrusted. The trusted component can be used to implement the desired confidentiality policy for our sensitive data and guarantee that the policy is enforced for the lifetime of the data. We demonstrate this first approach by showing how the difficult-to-achieve originator-controlled (ORCON) access control policy can be enforced with the real-world vi editor.
Our first approach essentially ties the protected data with the trusted part of the application that is protected by the hardware. However, this results in the inconvenience of having to use only a particular application to access the protected data, limiting the portability and availability of the data. Therefore, my second approach removes the applications from the trust chain and provides an application-independent secure data compartment that tracks and protects the data in the hardware, no matter
which untrusted application or authorized recipient is given access to the data. We use the flexibility of software to interpret and translate high-level policies to low-level semantics that the hardware understands, and we use the hardware to persistently track the usage of the sensitive data and to control the output of the sensitive data from the machine. We have prototyped the architecture on the OpenSPARC processor platform and show how unmodified third-party applications can be run while various data-specific high-level policies can be enforced on the sensitive data.
My second approach leverages a technique called Dynamic Information Flow Tracking (DIFT), which has been shown to be a powerful technique for computer security, covering both integrity and confidentiality applications. However, the false-positives and false-negatives of DIFT techniques have hindered its practical adoption and usability. We take a deeper look at the practicality and usability issues of DIFT and explore various techniques to address the false positives and false negatives, arising from the undecidability of conditional branches, which is a type of implicit information flow that is particularly hard to solve dynamically. We propose various micro-architectural and hybrid software-hardware solutions using only the application binaries and show how the combination of these solutions help build a practical and usable DIFT system.