Capability-Based Systems

Capability-Based Systems

 In this section, we survey two capability-based protection systems. These systems vary in their complexity and in the types of policies that can be implemented on them. Neither system is widely used, but they are interesting proving grounds for protection theories.

An Example: Hydra Hydra is a capability-based protection system that provides considerable flexibility. A fixed set of possible access rights is known to and interpreted by the system. These rights include such basic forms of access as the right to read, write, or execute a memory segment. In addition, a user (of the protection system) can declare other rights.

 The interpretation of user-defined rights is performed solely by the user's program, but the system provides access protection for the use of these rights, as well as for the use of system-defined rights. These facilities constitute a significant development in protection technology. Operations on objects are defined procedurally.

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 The procedures that implement such operations are themselves a form of object, and they are accessed indirectly by capabilities. The names of user-defined procedures must be identified to the protection system if it is to deal with objects of the userdefined type.

Capability-Based Systems

When the definition of an object is made known to Hydra, the type become auxiliary rights. Auxiliary rights can be described in a capability for an instance of the type. For a process to perform an operation on a typed object, the capability it holds for that object must contain the name of the operation being invoked among its auxiliary rights. This restriction enables discrimination of access rights to be made on an instance-by-instance and process-by-process basis.

 Hydra also provides rights amplification. This scheme allows a procedure to be certified as trustworthy to act on a formal parameter of a specified type on behalf of any process that holds a right to execute the procedure. The rights held by a trustworthy procedure are independent of, and may exceed, the rights held by the calling process. However, such a procedure must not be regarded as universally trustworthy (the procedure is not allowed to act on other types, for instance), and the trustworthiness must not be extended to any other procedures or program segments that might be executed by a process.

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Amplification allows implementation procedures access to the representation variables of an abstract data type. If a process holds a capability to a typed object A, for instance, this capability may include an auxiliary right to invoke some operation P but would not include any of the so-called kernel rights, such as read, write, or execute, on the segment that represents A. Such a capability gives a process a means of indirect access (through the operation P) to the representation of A, but only for specific purposes.

When a process invokes the operation P on an object A, however, the capability for access to A may be amplified as control passes to the code body of P. This amplification may be necessary to allow P the right to access the storage segment representing A so as to implement the operation that P defines on the abstract data type.

The code body of P may be allowed to read or to write to the segment of A directly, even though the calling process cannot. On return from P, the capability for A is restored to its original, unamplified state. This case is a typical one in which the rights held by a process for access to a protected segment must change dynamically, depending on the task to be performed.

The dynamic adjustment of rights is performed to guarantee consistency of a programmer-defined abstraction. Amplification of rights can be stated explicitly in the declaration of an abstract type to the Hydra operating system. When a user passes an object as an argument to a procedure, we may need to ensure that the procedure cannot modify the abject. We can implement this restriction readily by passing an access right that does not have the modification (write) right. However, if amplification may occur, the right to modify may be reinstated. Thus, the user-protection requirement can be circumvented.

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 In general, of course, a user may trust that a procedure performs its task correctly. This assumption is not always correct, however, because of hardware or software errors. Hydra solves this problem by restricting amplifications. The procedure-call mechanism of Hydra was designed as a direct solution to the problem of mutually suspicious subsystems. This problem is defined as follows. Suppose that a program is provided that can be invoked as a service by a number of different users (for example, a sort routine, a compiler, a game). When users invoke this service program, they take the risk that the program will malfunction and will either damage the given data or retain some access right to the data to be used (without authority) later.

Similarly, the service program may have some private files (for accounting purposes, that should not be accessed directly by the calling user program. Hydra provides mechanisms for directly dealing with this problem. A Hydra subsystem is built on top of its protection kernel and may require protection of its own components. A subsystem interacts with the kernel through calls on a set of kernel-defined primitives that define access rights to resources defined by the subsystem.

The subsystem designer can define policies for use of these resources by user processes, but the policies are enforceable by use of the standard access protection afforded by the capability system. A programmer can make direct use of the protection system after acquainting herself with its features in the appropriate reference manual. Hydra provides a large library of system-defined procedures that can be called by user programs. A user of the Hydra system would explicitly incorporate calls on these system procedures into the code of her programs or would use a program translator that had been interfaced to Hydra.

 An Example:

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Cambridge CAP System

A different approach to capability-based protection has been taken in the design of the Cambridge CAP system. CAP's capability system is simpler and superficially less powerful than that of Hydra. However, closer examination shows that it, too, can be used to provide secure protection of user-defined objects. CAP has two kinds of capabilities. The ordinary kind is called a data capability. It can be used to provide access to objects, but the only rights provided are the standard read, write, and execute of the individual storage segments associated with the object. Data capabilities are interpreted by microcode in the CAP machine. The second kind of capability is the so-called software capability, which is protected, but not interpreted, by the CAP microcode. It is interpreted by a protected (that is, a privileged) procedure, which may be written by an application programmer as part of a subsystem.

 A particular kind of rights amplification is associated with a protected procedure. When executing the code body of such a procedure, a process temporarily acquires the right to read or write the contents of a software capability itself. This specific kind of rights amplification corresponds to an implementation of the seal and unseal primitives on capabilities. Of course, this privilege is still subject to type verification to ensure that only software capabilities for a specified abstract type are passed to any such procedure.

Universal trust is not placed in any code other than the CAP machine's microcode. (See Bibliographical Notes for references.) The interpretation of a software capability is left completely to the subsystem., through the protected procedures it contains. This scheme allows a variety of protection policies to be implemented. Although a programmer can define her own protected procedures (any of which might be incorrect), the security of the overall system cannot be compromised.

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 The basic protection system will not allow an unverified, user-defined, protected procedure access to any storage segments (or capabilities) that do not belong to the protection environment in which it resides. The most serious consequence of an insecure protected procedure is a protection breakdown of the subsystem for which that procedure has responsibility. .

Protection The designers of the CAP system, have noted that the use of software capabilities allowed them to realize considerable economies in formulating and implementing protection policies commensurate with the requirements of abstract resources. However, a subsystem designer who wants to make use of this facility cannot simply study a reference manual, as is the case with Hydra. Instead, she must learn the principles and techniques of protection, since the system provides her with no library of procedures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ans: Revocation of Access Rights In a dynamic protection system, we may sometimes need to revoke access rights to objects shared by different users view more..
Ans: Network Topology The sites in a distributed system can be connected physically in a variety of ways. Each configuration has advantages and disadvantages. We can compare the configurations by using the following criteria: • Installation cost. The cost of physically linking the sites in the system • Communication cost. The cost in time and money to send a message from site A to site B 16.4 Network Topology 621 • Availability. The extent to which data can be accessed despite the failure of some links or sites view more..
Ans: Network Structure There are basically two types of networks: local-area networks (LAN) and wide-area networks (WAN). The main difference between the two is the way in which they are geographically distributed. Local-area networks are composed of processors distributed over small areas (such as a single building? or a number of adjacent buildings), whereas wide-area networks are composed of a number of autonomous processors distributed over a large area (such as the United States). These differences imply major variations in the speed and reliability of the communications network, and they are reflected in the distributed operating-system design. view more..
Ans: We survey two capability-based protection systems. These systems vary in their complexity and in the types of policies that can be implemented on them. Neither system is widely used, but they are interesting proving grounds for protection theories view more..
Ans: Robustness A distributed system may suffer from various types of hardware failure. The failure of a link, the failure of a site, and the loss of a message are the most common types. To ensure that the system is robust, we must detect any of these failures, reconfigure the system so that computation can continue, and recover when a site or a link is repaired. view more..
Ans: Design Issues Making the multiplicity of processors and storage devices transparent to the users has been a key challenge to many designers. Ideally, a distributed system should look to its users like a conventional, centralized system. The1 user interface of a transparent distributed system should not distinguish between local and remote resources. That is, users should be able to access remote resources as though these resources were local, and the distributed system should be responsible for locating the resources and for arranging for the appropriate interaction. view more..
Ans: Design Principles Microsoft's design goals for Windows XP include security, reliability, Windows and POSIX application compatibility, high performance, extensibility, portability, and international support. view more..
Ans: Input and Output To the user, the I/O system in Linux looks much like that in any UNIX system. That is, to the extent possible, all device drivers appear as normal files. A user can open an access channel to a device in the same way she opens any other file—devices can appear as objects within the file system. The system administrator can create special files within a file system that contain references to a specific device driver, and a user opening such a file will be able to read from and write to the device referenced. By using the normal file-protection system, which determines who can access which file, the administrator can set access permissions for each device. Linux splits all devices into three classes: block devices, character devices, and network devices. view more..
Ans: Communication Protocols When we are designing a communication network, we must deal with the inherent complexity of coordinating asynchronous operations communicating in a potentially slow and error-prone environment. In addition, the systems on the network must agree on a protocol or a set of protocols for determining host names, locating hosts on the network, establishing connections, and so on. view more..
Ans: Naming and Transparency Naming is a mapping between logical and physical objects. For instance, users deal with logical data objects represented by file names, whereas the system manipulates physical blocks of data stored on disk tracks. Usually, a user refers to a file by a textual name. view more..
Ans: Stateful Versus Stateless Service There are two approaches for storing server-side information when a client accesses remote files: Either the server tracks each file being accessed byeach client, or it simply provides blocks as they are requested by the client without knowledge of how those blocks are used. In the former case, the service provided is stateful; in the latter case, it is stateless. view more..
Ans: Computer-Security Classifications The U.S. Department of Defense Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria specify four security classifications in systems: A, B, C, and D. This specification is widely used to determine the security of a facility and to model security solutions, so we explore it here. The lowest-level classification is division D, or minimal protection. Division D includes only one class and is used for systems that have failed to meet the requirements of any of the other security classes. For instance, MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 are in division D. Division C, the next level of security, provides discretionary protection and accountability of users and their actions through the use of audit capabilities. view more..
Ans: An Example: Windows XP Microsoft Windows XP is a general-purpose operating system designed to support a variety of security features and methods. In this section, we examine features that Windows XP uses to perform security functions. For more information and background on Windows XP, see Chapter 22. The Windows XP security model is based on the notion of user accounts. Windows XP allows the creation of any number of user accounts, which can be grouped in any manner. Access to system objects can then be permitted or denied as desired. Users are identified to the system by a unique security ID. When a user logs on, Windows XP creates a security access token that includes the security ID for the user, security IDs for any groups of which the user is a member, and a list of any special privileges that the user has. view more..
Ans: An Example: Networking We now return to the name-resolution issue raised in Section 16.5.1 and examine its operation with respect to the TCP/IP protocol stack on the Internet. We consider the processing needed to transfer a packet between hosts on different Ethernet networks. In a TCP/IP network, every host has a name and an associated 32-bit Internet number (or host-id). view more..
Ans: Application I/O interface In this section, we discuss structuring techniques and interfaces for the operating system that enable I/O devices to be treated in a standard, uniform way. We explain, for instance, how an application can open a file on a disk without knowing what kind of disk it is and how new disks and other devices can be added to a computer without disruption of the operating system. Like other complex software-engineering problems, the approach here involves abstraction, encapsulation, and software layering. Specifically we can abstract away the detailed differences in I/O devices by identifying a fewgeneral kinds. Each general kind is accessed through a standardized set of functions—an interface. The differences are encapsulated in kernel modules called device drivers that internally are custom-tailored to each device but that export one of the standard interfaces. view more..
Ans: Transforming I/O Requests to Hardware Operations Earlier, we described the handshaking between a device driver and a device controller, but we did not explain how the operating system connects an application request to a set of network wires or to a specific disk sector. Let's consider the example of reading a file from disk. The application refers to the data by a file name. Within a disk, the file system maps from the file name through the file-system directories to obtain the space allocation of the file. For instance, in MS-DOS, the name maps to a number that indicates an entry in the file-access table, and that table entry tells which disk blocks are allocated to the file. In UNIX, the name maps to an inode number, and the corresponding inode contains the space-allocation information. How is the connection made from the file name to the disk controller (the hardware port address or the memory-mapped controller registers)? First, we consider MS-DOS, a relatively simple operating system. The first part of an MS-DOS file name, preceding the colon, is a string that identifies a specific hardware device. For example, c: is the first part of every file name on the primary hard disk view more..
Ans: STREAMS UNIX System V has an interesting mechanism, called STREAMS, that enables an application to assemble pipelines of driver code dynamically. A stream is a full-duplex connection between a device driver and a user-level process. It consists of a stream head that interfaces with the user process, a driver end that controls the device, and zero or more stream modules between them. view more..
Ans: Performance I/O is a major factor in system performance. It places heavy demands on the CPU to execute device-driver code and to schedule processes fairly and efficiently as they block and unblock. The resulting context switches stress the CPU and its hardware caches. I/O also exposes any inefficiencies in the interrupt-handling mechanisms in the kernel. view more..

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