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Operating System Protection for Fine-Grained Programs

Operating System Protection for Fine-Grained Programs

Trent Jaeger, Jochen Liedtke, and Nayeem Islam


Proceedings of the 7th USENIX Security Symposium, San Antonio, TX, January 1998

Date: 01.1998


We present an operating system-level security model for controlling fine-grained programs, such as downloaded executable content, and compare this security model's implementation to that of language-based security models. Language-based security has well- known limitations, such as the lack of complete me- diation (e.g., for compiled programs or race condi- tion attacks) and faulty self-protection (effective security is unproven). Operating system-level models are capable of complete mediation and self-protection, but some researchers argue that operating system- level security models are unlikely to supplant such language-based models because they lack portability and performance. In this paper, we detail an oper- ating system-level security model built on the Lava Nucleus, a minimal, fast µ-kernel operating system. We show how it can enforce security requirements for fine-grained programs and show that its performance overhead (with the additional security) can be virtually negligible when compared to language- based models. Given the sufficient performance and security, the portability issue should become moot because other vendors will have to meet the higher security and performance expectations of their customers.


  author = {Trent Jaeger and Jochen Liedtke and Nayeem Islam},
  title = {Operating System Protection for Fine-Grained Programs},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the 7th USENIX Security Symposium}
  address = {San Antonio, TX},
  month = jan,
  year = 1998,
  url = {http://l4ka.org/publications/}