Abstract: I tackle the problem of naming and sharing resources across administrative boundaries. Conventional systems manifest the hierarchy of typical administrative structure in the structure of their own mechanism. While natural for communication that follows hierarchical patterns, such systems interfere with naming and sharing that cross administrative boundaries, and therefore cause headaches for both users and administrators. I propose to organize resource naming and security, not around administrative domains, but around the sharing patterns of users.
The dissertation is organized into four main parts. First, I discuss the challenges and tradeoffs involved in naming resources and consider a variety of existing approaches to naming.
Second, I consider the architectural requirements for user-centric sharing. I evaluate existing systems with respect to these requirements.
Third, to support the sharing architecture, I develop a formal logic of sharing that captures the notion of restricted delegation. Restricted delegation ensures that users can use the same mechanisms to share resources consistently, regardless of the origin of the resource, or with whom the user wishes to share the resource next. A formal semantics gives unambiguous meaning to the logic. I apply the formalism to the Simple Public Key Infrastructure and discuss how the formalism either supports or discourages potential extensions to such a system.
Finally, I use the formalism to drive a user-centric sharing implementation for distributed systems. I show how this implementation enables end-to-end authorization, a feature that makes heterogeneous distributed systems more secure and easier to audit. Conventionally, gateway services that bridge administrative domains, add abstraction, or translate protocols typically impede the flow of authorization information from client to server. In contrast, end-to-end authorization enables us to build gateway services that preserve authorization information, hence we reduce the size of the trusted computing base and enable more effective auditing. I demonstrate my implementation and show how it enables end-to-end authorization across various boundaries. I measure my implementation and argue that its performance tracks that of similar authorization mechanisms without end-to-end structure.
I conclude that my user-centric philosophy of naming and sharing benefits both users and administrators.
Keywords: naming, sharing, distributed system, operating system, security, authorization, authentication, access control, SPKI
Copyright © 2000 by Jonathan R. Howell.