Towards Improving the Availability and Performance of Enterprise Authorization Systems

Qiang Wei

09 October 2009

Abstract: Authorization protects application resources by allowing only authorized entities to access them. Existing authorization solutions are widely based on the request-response model, where a policy enforcement point intercepts application requests, obtains authorization decisions from a remote policy decision point, and enforces those decisions. This model enables sharing the decision point as an authorization service across multiple applications. But, with many requests and resources, using a remote shared decision point leads to increased latency and presents the risk of introducing a bottleneck and/or a single point of failure. This dissertation presents three approaches to addressing these problems. The first approach introduces and evaluates the mechanisms for authorization recycling in role-based access control systems. The algorithms that support these mechanisms allow a local secondary decision point to not only reuse previously-cached decisions but also infer new and correct decisions based on two simple rules, thereby masking possible failures of the central authorization service and reducing the network delays. Our evaluation results suggest that authorization recycling improves the availability and performance of distributed access control solutions. The second approach explores a cooperative authorization recycling system, where each secondary decision point shares its ability to make decisions with others through a discovery service. Our system does not require cooperating secondary decision points to trust each other. To maintain cache consistency at multiple secondary decision points, we propose alternative mechanisms for propagating update messages. Our evaluation results suggest that cooperation further improves the availability and performance of authorization infrastructures. The third approach examines the use of a publish-subscribe channel for delivering authorization requests and responses between policy decision points and enforcement points. By removing enforcement points' dependence on a particular decision point, this approach helps improve system availability, which is confirmed by our analytical analysis, and reduce system administration/development overhead. We also propose several subscription schemes for different deployment environments and study them using a prototype system. We finally show that combining these three approaches can further improve the authorization system availability and performance, for example, by achieving a unified cooperation framework and using speculative authorizations.

Keyword(s): SAAM ; JAMES ; Publish subscribe ; CSAR ; Authorization recycling ; Access control ; cooperation ; Engineering Security Mechanisms

Published in: Qiang Wei, "Towards Improving the Availability and Performance of Enterprise Authorization Systems," PhD dissertation, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, October, 2009, pp.141.:

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Engineering Security Mechanisms

 Record created 2009-10-09, last modified 2013-05-22

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