Skip to Main Content
Software execution environments like operating systems, mobile code platforms and scriptable applications must protect themselves against potential damages caused by malicious code. Monitoring the execution history of the latter provides an effective means for controlling the access pattern of system services. Several authors have recently proposed increasingly general automata models for characterizing various classes of security policies enforceable by execution monitoring. An open question raised by Bauer, Ligatti and Walker is whether one can further classify the space of security policies by constraining the capabilities of the execution monitor. This paper presents a novel information-based approach to address the research problem. Specifically, security policies are characterized by the information consumed by an enforcing execution monitor. By restricting the execution monitor to track only a shallow history of previously granted access events, a precise characterization of a class of security policies enforceable by restricted access to information is identified. Although provably less expressive than the general class of policies enforceable by execution monitoring, this class does contain naturally occurring policies including Chinese Wall policy, low-water-mark policy, one-out-of-k authorization, assured pipelines, etc. Encouraged by this success, the technique is generalized to produce a lattice of policy classes. Within the lattice, policy classes are ordered by the information required for enforcing member policies. Such a fine-grained policy classification lays the semantic foundation for future studies on special-purpose policy languages.