LOGICAL ACCESS CONTROL
access controls provide a technical means of controlling what information
users can utilize, the programs they can run, and the modifications they
On many multiuser systems, requirements
for using (and prohibitions against the use of) various computer resources114
vary considerably. Typically, for example, some information must be accessible
to all users115, some may be needed by several
groups or departments, and some should be accessed by only a few individuals.
While it is obvious that users must have access to the information they need
to do their jobs, it may also be required to deny access to non-job-related
information. It may also be important to control the kind of access that
is afforded (e.g., the ability for the average user to execute, but not change,
system programs). These types of access restrictions enforce policy and help
ensure that unauthorized actions are not taken.
term access is often confused with authorization and authentication.
Access is the
ability to do something with a computer resource. This usually
refers to a technical ability (e.g., read, create, modify, or delete a
file, execute a program, or use an external connection).
is the permission to use a computer resource. Permission is granted,
directly or indirectly, by the application or system owner.
is proving (to some reasonable degree) that users are who they claim to
Access is the ability to do
something with a computer resource (e.g., use, change, or view). Access control
is the means by which the ability is explicitly enabled or restricted in some
way (usually through physical and system-based controls). Computer-based access
controls are called logical access controls. Logical access controls
can prescribe not only who or what (e.g., in the case of a process) is to have
access to a specific system resource but also the type of access that is permitted.
These controls may be built into the operating system, may be incorporated into
applications programs or major utilities (e.g., database management systems
or communications systems), or may be implemented through add-on security packages.
Logical access controls may be implemented internally to the computer system
being protected or may be implemented in external devices.
Logical access controls can help
- operating systems and other system
software from unauthorized modification or manipulation (and thereby help
ensure the system's integrity and availability);
- the integrity and availability
of information by restricting the number of users and processes with access;
- confidential information from
being disclosed to unauthorized individuals.
access is normally thought of as applying to human users (e.g.,
will technical access be provided for user JSMITH to the file
"payroll.dat") but access can be provided to other
computer systems. Also, access controls are often incorrectly
thought of as only applying to files. However, they also
protect other system resources such as the ability to place
an outgoing long-distance phone call through a system modem
(as well as, perhaps, the information that can be sent over
such a call). Access controls can also apply to specific functions
within an application and to specific fields of a file.
This chapter first discusses
basic criteria that can be used to decide whether a particular user
should be granted access to a particular system resource. It then
reviews the use of these criteria by those who set policy (usually
system-specific policy), commonly used technical mechanisms
for implementing logical access control, and issues related to administration
of access controls.
17.1 Access Criteria
In deciding whether to
permit someone to use a system resource logical access controls
examine whether the user is authorized for the type of access
requested. (Note that this inquiry is usually distinct from
the question of whether the user is authorized to use the system
at all, which is usually addressed in an identification and
determining what kind of technical access to allow to specific
data, programs, devices, and resources, it is important to consider
who will have access and what kind of access they will be allowed.
It may be desirable for everyone in the organization to have
access to some information on the system, such as the data displayed
on an organization's daily calendar of nonconfidential meetings.
The program that formats and displays the calendar, however,
might be modifiable by only a very few system administrators,
while the operating system controlling that program might be
directly accessible by still fewer.
The system uses various
criteria to determine if a request for access will be granted. They
are typically used in some combination. Many of the advantages and
complexities involved in implementing and managing access control
are related to the different kinds of user accesses supported.
It is probably fair to
say that the majority of access controls are based upon the identity
of the user (either human or process), which is usually obtained
through identification and authentication (I&A). (See Chapter
16.) The identity is usually unique, to support individual accountability,
but can be a group identification or can even be anonymous. For
example, public information dissemination systems may serve a large
group called "researchers" in which the individual researchers
are not known.
systems already support a small number of special-purpose roles,
such as System Administrator or Operator. For example, an individual
who is logged on in the role of a System Administrator can perform
operations that would be denied to the same individual acting
in the role of an ordinary user.
the use of roles has been expanded beyond system tasks to
application-oriented activities. For example, a user in a
company could have an Order Taking role, and would be able
to collect and enter customer-billing information, check on
availability of particular items, request shipment of items,
and issue invoices. In addition, there could be an Accounts
Receivable role, which would receive payments and credit them
to particular invoices. A Shipping role could then be responsible
for shipping products and updating the inventory. To provide
additional security, constraints could be imposed so a single
user would never be simultaneously authorized to assume all
three roles. Constraints of this kind are sometimes referred
to as separation of duty constraints.
Access to information
may also be controlled by the job assignment or function (i.e.,
the role) of the user who is seeking access. Examples of
roles include data entry clerk, purchase officer, project leader,
programmer, and technical editor. Access rights are grouped by role
name, and the use of resources is restricted to individuals authorized
to assume the associated role. An individual may be authorized for
more than one role, but may be required to act in only a single
role at a time. Changing roles may require logging out and then
in again, or entering a role-changing command. Note that use of
roles is not the same as shared-use accounts. An individual
may be assigned a standard set of rights of a shipping department
data entry clerk, for example, but the account would still be tied
to that individual's identity to allow for auditing. (See Chapter
The use of roles can
be a very effective way of providing access control. The process
of defining roles should be based on a thorough analysis of how
an organization operates and should include input from a wide spectrum
of users in an organization.
Access to particular
system resources may also be based upon physical or logical location.
For example, in a prison, all users in areas to which prisoners
are physically permitted may be limited to read-only access. Changing
or deleting is limited to areas to which prisoners are denied physical
access. The same authorized users (e.g., prison guards) would operate
under significantly different logical access controls, depending
upon their physical location. Similarly, users can be restricted
based upon network addresses (e.g., users from sites within a given
organization may be permitted greater access than those from outside).
Time-of-day or day-of-week
restrictions are common limitations on access. For example, use
of confidential personnel files may be allowed only during normal
working hours -- and maybe denied before 8:00 a.m. and after 6:00
p.m. and all day during weekends and holidays.
Another approach to access
control can be used by organizations handling transactions (e.g.,
account inquiries). Phone calls may first be answered by a computer
that requests that callers key in their account number and perhaps
a PIN. Some routine transactions can then be made directly, but
more complex ones may require human intervention. In such cases,
the computer, which already knows the account number, can grant
a clerk, for example, access to a particular account for the
duration of the transaction. When completed, the access authorization
is terminated. This means that users have no choice in which accounts
they have access to, and can reduce the potential for mischief.
It also eliminates employee browsing of accounts (e.g., those of
celebrities or their neighbors) and can thereby heighten privacy.
17.1.6 Service Constraints
Service constraints refer
to those restrictions that depend upon the parameters that may arise
during use of the application or that are preestablished by the
resource owner/manager. For example, a particular software package
may only be licensed by the organization for five users at a time.
Access would be denied for a sixth user, even if the user were otherwise
authorized to use the application. Another type of service constraint
is based upon application content or numerical thresholds. For example,
an ATM machine may restrict transfers of money between accounts
to certain dollar limits or may limit maximum ATM withdrawals to
$500 per day. Access may also be selectively permitted based on
the type of service requested. For example, users of computers on
a network may be permitted to exchange electronic mail but may not
be allowed to log in to each others' computers.
17.1.7 Common Access
In addition to considering
criteria for when access should occur, it is also necessary
to consider the types of access, or access modes.
The concept of access modes is fundamental to access control. Common
access modes, which can be used in both operating or application
systems, include the following:116
provides users with the capability to view information in a system
resource (such as a file, certain records, certain fields, or
some combination thereof), but not to alter it, such as
delete from, add to, or modify in any way. One must assume that
information can be copied and printed if it can be read (although
perhaps only manually, such as by using a print screen function
and retyping the information into another file).
allows users to add to, modify, or delete information in system
resources (e.g., files, records, programs). Normally user has
read access to anything they have write access to.
allows users to run programs.
allows users to erase system resources (e.g., files, records,
fields, programs).117 Note that
if users have write access but not delete access, they could overwrite
the field or file with gibberish or otherwise inaccurate information
and, in effect, delete the information.
Other specialized access
modes (more often found in applications) include:
allows users to create new files, records, or fields.
allows users to list the files in a directory.
Of course, these criteria
can be used in conjunction with one another. For example, an organization
may give authorized individuals write access to an application at
any time from within the office but only read access during normal
working hours if they dial-in.
Depending upon the technical
mechanisms available to implement logical access control, a wide
variety of access permissions and restrictions are possible. No
discussion can present all possibilities.
17.2 Policy: The Impetus
for Access Controls
Logical access controls
are a technical means of implementing policy decisions. Policy
is made by a management official responsible for a particular system,
application, subsystem, or group of systems. The development of
an access control policy may not be an easy endeavor. It requires
balancing the often-competing interests of security, operational
requirements, and user-friendliness. In addition, technical constraints
have to be considered.
few simple examples of specific policy issues
are provided below; it is important to recognize, however, that
comprehensive system-specific policy is significantly
director of an organization's personnel office could decide
that all clerks can update all files, to increase the efficiency
of the office. Or the director could decide that clerks can
only view and update specific files, to help prevent information
a disbursing office, a single individual is usually prohibited
from both requesting and authorizing that a particular payment
be made. This is a policy decision taken to reduce
the likelihood of embezzlement and fraud.
may also be made regarding access to the system itself. In
the government, for example, the senior information resources
management official may decide that agency systems that process
information protected by the Privacy Act may not be used to
process public-access database applications.
This chapter discusses
issues relating to the technical implementation of logical access
controls - not the actual policy decisions as to who should
have what type of access. These decisions are typically included
in system-specific policy, as discussed in Chapters 5 and 10.
Once these policy decisions
have been made, they will be implemented (or enforced)
through logical access controls. In doing so, it is important to
realize that the capabilities of various types of technical mechanisms
(for logical access control) vary greatly.118
17.3 Technical Implementation
Many mechanisms have
been developed to provide internal and external access controls,
and they vary significantly in terms of precision, sophistication,
and cost. These methods are not mutually exclusive and are often
employed in combination. Managers need to analyze their organization's
protection requirements to select the most appropriate, cost-effective
logical access controls.
17.3.1 Internal Access
controls are a logical means of separating what defined users (or
user groups) can or cannot do with system resources. Five methods
of internal access control are discussed in this section: passwords,
encryption, access control lists, constrained user interfaces, and
Passwords are most often
associated with user authentication. (See Chapter 16.) However,
they are also used to protect data and applications on many systems,
including PCs. For instance, an accounting application may require
a password to access certain financial data or to invoke a restricted
application (or function of an application).119
use of passwords as a means of access control can result in
a proliferation of passwords that can reduce overall security.
control is often inexpensive because it is already included in a
large variety of applications. However, users may find it difficult
to remember additional application passwords, which, if written
down or poorly chosen, can lead to their compromise. Password-based
access controls for PC applications are often easy to circumvent
if the user has access to the operating system (and knowledge of
what to do). As discussed in Chapter 16, there are other disadvantages
to using passwords.
Another mechanism that
can be used for logical access control is encryption. Encrypted
information can only be decrypted by those possessing the appropriate
cryptographic key. This is especially useful if strong physical
access controls cannot be provided, such as for laptops or floppy
diskettes. Thus, for example, if information is encrypted on a laptop
computer, and the laptop is stolen, the information cannot be accessed.
While encryption can provide strong access control, it is accompanied
by the need for strong key management. Use of encryption may also
affect availability. For example, lost or stolen keys or read/write
errors may prevent the decryption of the information. (See the cryptography
188.8.131.52 Access Control
Access Control Lists
(ACLs) refer to a register of: (1) users (including groups, machines,
processes) who have been given permission to use a particular system
resource, and (2) the types of access they have been permitted.
ACLs vary considerably
in their capability and flexibility. Some only allow specifications
for certain pre-set groups (e.g., owner, group, and world) while
more advanced ACLs allow much more flexibility, such as user-defined
groups. Also, more advanced ACLs can be used to explicitly deny
access to a particular individual or group. With more advanced ACLs,
access can be at the discretion of the policymaker (and implemented
by the security administrator) or individual user, depending upon
how the controls are technically implemented.
Elementary ACLs (e.g., "permission bits") are a widely
available means of providing access control on multiuser systems.
In this scheme, a short, predefined list of the access rights to
files or other system resources is maintained.
of Elementary ACL for the file "payroll":
Access: Read, Write, Execute, Delete
Access: Read, Write, Execute, Delete
Elementary ACLs are typically
based on the concepts of owner, group, and world.
For each of these, a set of access modes (typically chosen from
read, write, execute, and delete) is specified by the owner (or
custodian) of the resource. The owner is usually its creator, though
in some cases, ownership of resources may be automatically assigned
to project administrators, regardless of the identity of the creator.
File owners often have all privileges for their resources.
In addition to the privileges
assigned to the owner, each resource is associated with a named
group of users. Users who are members of the group can be granted
modes of access distinct from nonmembers, who belong to the rest
of the "world" that includes all of the system's users.
User groups may be arranged according to departments, projects,
or other ways appropriate for the particular organization. For example,
groups may be established for members of the Personnel and Accounting
departments. The system administrator is normally responsible for
technically maintaining and changing the membership of a group,
based upon input from the owners/custodians of the particular resources
to which the groups may be granted access.
one would presume that no one would have access without being
granted access, why would it be desirable to explicitly deny
access? Consider a situation in which a group name has already
been established for 50 employees. If it were desired to exclude
5 of the individuals from that group, it would be easier for
the access control administrator to simply grant access to that
group and take it away from the 5 rather than grant access to
45 people. Or, consider the case of a complex application in
which many groups of users are defined. It may be desired, for
some reason, to prohibit Ms. X from generating a particular
report (perhaps she is under investigation). In a situation
in which group names are used (and perhaps modified by others),
this explicit denial may be a safety check to restrict Ms. X's
access -- in case someone were to redefine a group (with access
to the report generation function) to include Ms. X. She would
still be denied access.
As the name implies,
however, the technology is not particularly flexible. It may not
be possible to explicitly deny access to an individual who is a
member of the file's group. Also, it may not be possible for two
groups to easily share information (without exposing it to the "world"),
since the list is predefined to only include one group. If two groups
wish to share information, an owner may make the file available
to be read by "world." This may disclose information that
should be restricted. Unfortunately, elementary ACLs have no mechanism
to easily permit such sharing.
Like elementary ACLs, advanced ACLs provide a form of access control
based upon a logical registry. They do, however, provide finer
precision in control.
Advanced ACLs can be
very useful in many complex information sharing situations. They
provide a great deal of flexibility in implementing system-specific
policy and allow for customization to meet the security requirements
of functional managers. Their flexibility also makes them more of
a challenge to manage. The rules for determining access in the face
of apparently conflicting ACL entries are not uniform across all
implementations and can be confusing to security administrators.
When such systems are introduced, they should be coupled with training
to ensure their correct use.
of Advanced ACL for the file "payroll"
Often used in conjunction
with ACLs are constrained user interfaces, which restrict
users' access to specific functions by never allowing them to request
the use of information, functions, or other specific system resources
for which they do not have access. Three major types exist: (1)
menus, (2) database views, and (3) physically constrained
Constrained user interfaces
can provide a form of access control that closely models how an
organization operates. Many systems allow administrators to restrict
users' ability to use the operating system or application system
directly. Users can only execute commands that are provided by the
administrator, typically in the form of a menu. Another means
of restricting users is through restricted shells, which
limit the system commands the user can invoke. The use of menus
and shells can often make the system easier to use and can help
systems are a common constrained user interface, where different
users are provided different menus on the same system.
is a mechanism for restricting user access to data contained in
a database. It may be necessary to allow a user to access a database,
but that user may not need access to all the data in the database
(e.g., not all fields of a record nor all records in the database).
Views can be used to enforce complex access requirements that are
often needed in database situations, such as those based on the
content of a field. For example, consider the situation where clerks
maintain personnel records in a database. Clerks are assigned a
range of clients based upon last name (e.g., A-C, D-G). Instead
of granting a user access to all records, the view can grant the
user access to the record based upon the first letter of the last
user interfaces can also limit a user's abilities. A common example
is an ATM machine, which provides only a limited number of physical
buttons to select options; no alphabetic keyboard is usually present.
that is used to increase the ease of security labeling is
categorizing data by similar protection requirements. For
example, a label could be developed for "organization
proprietary data." This label would mark information
that can be disclosed only to the organization's employees.
Another label, "public data" could be used to mark
information that is available to anyone.
184.108.40.206 Security Labels
A security label is a
designation assigned to a resource (such as a file). Labels can
be used for a variety of purposes, including controlling access,
specifying protective measures, or indicating additional handling
instructions. In many implementations, once this designator has
been set, it cannot be changed (except perhaps under carefully controlled
conditions that are subject to auditing).
When used for access
control, labels are also assigned to user sessions. Users
are permitted to initiate sessions with specific labels only. For
example, a file bearing the label "Organization Proprietary
Information" would not be accessible (readable) except during
user sessions with the corresponding label. Moreover, only a restricted
set of users would be able to initiate such sessions. The labels
of the session and those of the files accessed during the session
are used, in turn, to label output from the session. This ensures
that information is uniformly protected throughout its life on the
systems with stringent security requirements (such as those
processing national security information), labels may be useful
in access control.
Labels are a very strong
form of access control; however, they are often inflexible and can
be expensive to administer. Unlike permission bits or access control
lists, labels cannot ordinarily be changed. Since labels are permanently
linked to specific information, data cannot be disclosed by a user
copying information and changing the access to that file so that
the information is more accessible than the original owner intended.
By removing users' ability to arbitrarily designate the accessibility
of files they own, opportunities for certain kinds of human errors
and malicious software problems are eliminated. In the example above,
it would not be possible to copy Organization Proprietary Information
into a file with a different label. This prevents inappropriate
disclosure, but can interfere with legitimate extraction of some
Labels are well suited
for consistently and uniformly enforcing access restrictions, although
their administration and inflexibility can be a significant deterrent
to their use.
of the most common PPDs is the dial-back modem. A typical
dial-back modem sequence follows: a user calls the dial-back
modem and enters a password. The modem hangs up on the user
and performs a table lookup for the password provided. If the
password is found, the modem places a return call to the user
(at a previously specified number) to initiate the session.
The return call itself also helps to protect against the use
of lost or compromised accounts. This is, however, not always
the case. Malicious hackers can use such advance functions as
call forwarding to reroute calls.
17.3.2 External Access
controls are a means of controlling interactions between the system
and outside people, systems, and services. External access controls
use a wide variety of methods, often including a separate physical
device (e.g., a computer) that is between the system being protected
and a network.
220.127.116.11 Port Protection
Fitted to a communications
port of a host computer, a port protection device (PPD) authorizes
access to the port itself, prior to and independent of the computer's
own access control functions. A PPD can be a separate device in
the communications stream,120 or it
may be incorporated into a communications device (e.g., a modem).
PPDs typically require a separate authenticator, such as a password,
in order to access the communications port.
18.104.22.168 Secure Gateways/
Often called firewalls,
secure gateways block or filter access between two networks, often
between a private121 network and a
larger, more public network such as the Internet, which attract
malicious hackers. Secure gateways allow internal users to connect
to external networks and at the same time prevent malicious hackers
from compromising the internal systems.122
Some secure gateways
are set up to allow all traffic to pass through except for specific
traffic which has known or suspected vulnerabilities or security
problems, such as remote log-in services. Other secure gateways
are set up to disallow all traffic except for specific types, such
as e-mail. Some secure gateways can make access-control decisions
based on the location of the requester. There are several technical
approaches and mechanisms used to support secure gateways.
of Secure Gateways
are many types of secure gateways. Some of the most common
are packet filtering (or screening) routers, proxy hosts,
bastion hosts, dual-homed gateways, and screened-host gateways.
Because gateways provide security
by restricting services or traffic, they can affect a system's usage.
For this reason, firewall experts always emphasize the need for
policy, so that appropriate officials decide how the organization
will balance operational needs and security.
In addition to reducing the risks
from malicious hackers, secure gateways have several other benefits. They can
reduce internal system security overhead, since they allow an organization to
concentrate security efforts on a limited number of machines. (This is similar
to putting a guard on the first floor of a building instead of needing a guard
on every floor.)
A second benefit is the centralization
of services. A secure gateway can be used to provide a central management point
for various services, such as advanced authentication (discussed in Chapter
16), e-mail, or public dissemination of information. Having a central management
point can reduce system overhead and improve service.
22.214.171.124 Host-Based Authentication
example of host-based authentication is the Network File System (NFS), which
allows a server to make file systems/directories available to specific machines.
Host-based authentication grants
access based upon the identity of the host originating the request, instead
of the identity of the user making the request. Many network applications in
use today use host-based authentication to determine whether access is allowed.
Under certain circumstances it is fairly easy to masquerade as the legitimate
host, especially if the masquerading host is physically located close to the
host being impersonated. Security measures to protect against misuse of some
host-based authentication systems are available (e.g., Secure RPC123
uses DES to provide a more secure identification of the client host).
17.4 Administration of Access Controls
One of the most complex and challenging
aspects of access control, administration involves implementing, monitoring,
modifying, testing, and terminating user accesses on the system. These can be
demanding tasks, even though they typically do not include making the actual
decisions as to the type of access each user may have.124
Decisions regarding accesses should be guided by organizational policy, employee
job descriptions and tasks, information sensitivity, user "need-to-know"
determinations, and many other factors.
and Security Administration
of systems and security requires access to advanced functions (such as
setting up a user account). The individuals who technically set up and
modify who has access to what are very powerful users on the system; they
are often called system or security administrators. On some systems, these
users are referred to as having privileged accounts.
The type of access
of these accounts varies considerably. Some administrator privileges,
for example, may allow an individual to administer only one application
or subsystem, while a higher level of privileges may allow for oversight
and establishment of subsystem administrators.
Normally, users who
are security administrators have two accounts: one for regular use and
one for security use. This can help protect the security account from
compromise. Furthermore, additional I&A precautions, such as ensuring
that administrator passwords are robust and changed regularly, are important
to minimize opportunities for unauthorized individuals to gain access
to these functions.
There are three basic approaches
to administering access controls: centralized, decentralized, or a combination
of these. Each has relative advantages and disadvantages. Which is most appropriate
in a given situation will depend upon the particular organization and its circumstances.
17.4.1 Centralized Administration
Using centralized administration,
one office or individual is responsible for configuring access controls. As
users' information processing needs change, their accesses can be modified only
through the central office, usually after requests have been approved by the
appropriate official. This allows very strict control over information, because
the ability to make changes resides with very few individuals. Each user's account
can be centrally monitored, and closing all accesses for any user can be easily
accomplished if that individual leaves the organization. Since relatively few
individuals oversee the process, consistent and uniform procedures and criteria
are usually not difficult to enforce. However, when changes are needed quickly,
going through a central administration office can be frustrating and time-consuming.
17.4.2 Decentralized Administration
In decentralized administration,
access is directly controlled by the owners or creators of the files, often
the functional manager. This keeps control in the hands of those most accountable
for the information, most familiar with it and its uses, and best able to judge
who needs what kind of access. This may lead, however, to a lack of consistency
among owners/creators as to procedures and criteria for granting user accesses
and capabilities. Also, when requests are not processed centrally, it may be
much more difficult to form a systemwide composite view of all user accesses
on the system at any given time. Different application or data owners may inadvertently
implement combinations of accesses that introduce conflicts of interest or that
are in some other way not in the organization's best interest.125
It may also be difficult to ensure that all accesses are properly terminated
when an employee transfers internally or leaves an organization.
17.4.3 Hybrid Approach
A hybrid approach combines centralized
and decentralized administration. One typical arrangement is that central administration
is responsible for the broadest and most basic accesses, and the owners/creators
of files control types of accesses or changes in users' abilities for the files
under their control. The main disadvantage to a hybrid approach is adequately
defining which accesses should be assignable locally and which should be assignable
17.5 Coordinating Access Controls
It is vital that access controls
protecting a system work together. At a minimum, three basic types of access
controls should be considered: physical, operating system, and application.
In general, access controls within an application are the most specific. However,
for application access controls to be fully effective they need to be supported
by operating system access controls. Otherwise access can be made to application
resources without going through the application.126
Operating system and application access controls need to be supported by physical
Logical access controls are closely
related to many other controls. Several of them have been discussed in the chapter.
Policy and Personnel. The
most fundamental interdependencies of logical access control are with policy
and personnel. Logical access controls are the technical implementation of system-specific
and organizational policy, which stipulates who should be able to access
what kinds of information, applications, and functions. These decisions are
normally based on the principles of separation of duties and least privilege.
Audit Trails. As discussed
earlier, logical access controls can be difficult to implement correctly. Also,
it is sometimes not possible to make logical access control as precise,
or fine-grained, as would be ideal for an organization. In such situations,
users may either deliberately or inadvertently abuse their access. For example,
access controls cannot prevent a user from modifying data the user is authorized
to modify, even if the modification is incorrect. Auditing provides a way to
identify abuse of access permissions. It also provides a means to review the
actions of system or security administrators.
Identification and Authentication.
In most logical access control scenarios, the identity of the user must be established
before an access control decision can be made. The access control process then
associates the permissible forms of accesses with that identity. This means
that access control can only be as effective as the I&A process employed
for the system.
Physical Access Control. Most
systems can be compromised if someone can physically access the machine (i.e.,
CPU or other major components) by, for example, restarting the system with different
software. Logical access controls are, therefore, dependent on physical access
controls (with the exception of encryption, which can depend solely on the strength
of the algorithm and the secrecy of the key).
17.7 Cost Considerations
Incorporating logical access controls
into a computer system involves the purchase or use of access control mechanisms,
their implementation, and changes in user behavior.
Direct Costs. Among the direct
costs associated with the use of logical access controls are the purchase and
support of hardware, operating systems, and applications that provide the controls,
and any add-on security packages. The most significant personnel cost in relation
to logical access control is usually for administration (e.g., initially determining,
assigning, and keeping access rights up to date). Label-based access control
is available in a limited number of commercial products, but at greater cost
and with less variety of selection. Role-based systems are becoming more available,
but there are significant costs involved in customizing these systems for a
particular organization. Training users to understand and use an access control
system is another necessary cost.
Indirect Costs. The primary
indirect cost associated with introducing logical access controls into a computer
system is the effect on user productivity. There may be additional overhead
involved in having individual users properly determine (when under their control)
the protection attributes of information. Another indirect cost that may arise
results from users not being able to immediately access information necessary
to accomplish their jobs because the permissions were incorrectly assigned (or
have changed). This situation is familiar to most organizations that put strong
emphasis on logical access controls.
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term computer resources includes information as well as system resources,
such as programs, subroutines, and hardware (e.g., modems, communications lines).
115. Users need not be actual human users. They could
include, for example, a program or another computer requesting use of a system
116. These access modes are described generically; exact definitions
and capabilities will vary from implementation to implementation. Readers are
advised to consult their system and application documentation.
117. "Deleting" information does not necessarily
physically remove the data from the storage media. This can have serious implications
for information that must be kept confidential. See "Disposition of Sensitive
Automated Information," CSL Bulletin, NIST, October 1992.
118. Some policies may not be technically implementable; appropriate
technical controls may simply not exist.
119. Note that this password is normally in addition
to the one supplied initially to log onto the system.
120. Typically PPDs are found only in serial communications
121. Private network is somewhat of a misnomer. Private
does not mean that the organization's network is totally inaccessible to outsiders
or prohibits use of the outside network from insiders (or the network would
be disconnected). It also does not mean that all the information on the network
requires confidentiality protection. It does mean that a network (or part of
a network) is, in some way, separated from another network.
122. Questions frequently arise as to whether secure gateways
help prevent the spread of viruses. In general, having a gateway scan transmitted
files for viruses requires more system overhead than is practical, especially
since the scanning would have to handle many different file formats. However,
secure gateways may reduce the spread of network worms.
123. RPC, or Remote Procedure Call, is the service used to
124. As discussed in the policy section earlier in this chapter,
those decisions are usually the responsibility of the applicable application
manager or cognizant management official. See also the discussion of system-specific
policy in Chapters 5 and 10.
125. Without necessary review mechanisms, central administration
does not a priori preclude this.
126. For example, logical access controls within an application
block User A from viewing File F. However, if operating systems access controls
do not also block User A from viewing File F, User A can use a utility program
(or another application) to view the file.