Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Analytics

3/13/2008
08:30 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

NSA Pushes 'Labeled' Access Control for NFS

National Security Agency's technology would tighten access to sensitive files and apps on NFS storage

The National Security Agency (NSA) is pitching its own high-security access control technology for the next version of the Network File System (NFS) protocol.

NSA presented its so-called Labeled NFS technology, which is based on its mandatory access control (MAC) technology in the Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) operating system, earlier this week at the Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Philadelphia.

Incorporating the MAC-driven technology into NFS would allow a “trusted” user or system to read and write sensitive files and run programs stored on NFS-based networked storage systems. MAC basically makes sure that users only access files for which they’re authorized, and that malicious code can’t run in NFS environments.

The IETF is now awaiting an official request for comments (RFC) from the NSA to begin the process of considering the new security feature for NFS.

“We suggested that they go ahead and [write an] Internet draft that provides some pointers to labeled mechanisms, and document what they’ve done, the design choices they’ve made… focusing on the requirements so we can [better] understand them,” says Spencer Shepler, co-chair of the IETF’s NFSv4 Working Group.

NSA was unavailable for comment at the time of this posting.

In general, a MAC approach centrally controls access policy to sensitive or restricted files and applications, and only a security policy administrator can set those policies (users can’t override them). When a user or program attempts to access a file, for instance, the system determines whether that user or object is authorized to do so.

Traditional access control methods today use an access control list (ACL), which determines access based on user identity, for example, and users and programs can make changes to access rules. The tradeoff with this “discretionary” access approach, according to the IETF presentation made by David Quigley of the NSA’s National Information Assurance Research Laboratory, is that organizations are not protected from malicious or vulnerable software -- and user privileges can be altered and expanded.

NFSv4, the current version of NFS, comes with Kerberos for strong authentication as well as an ACL specification. “You can use Kerberos to strongly authenticate users and to ensure a server is not spoofing or subverting the overall storage mechanisms. And common ACL mechanisms are defined,” says the IETF’s Shepler, who works for Sun. “I view the Labeled NFS work as a third vector of security.”

But whether Labeled NFS may be overkill for organizations that don’t have the same security concerns as a federal agency or the NSA is unclear. “My personal opinion is there’s a set of hurdles on how to use and manage it -- are [enterprises] prepared to take on that type of definition and granularity it might impose? Some organizations are just trying to deal with the basics of strong authentication and reasonable ACL usage -- fundamental things,” Shepler says.

Adding Labeled NFS would let SELinux systems expand their existing MAC security across networked storage systems. It would also benefit FreeBSD and Solaris, according to the NSA’s presentation.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: JAVA)

    Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    News
    A Startup With NSA Roots Wants Silently Disarming Cyberattacks on the Wire to Become the Norm
    Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  5/11/2021
    Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
    Cybersecurity: What Is Truly Essential?
    Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  5/12/2021
    Commentary
    3 Cybersecurity Myths to Bust
    Etay Maor, Sr. Director Security Strategy at Cato Networks,  5/11/2021
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon Contest
    Current Issue
    2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
    We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
    Flash Poll
    How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
    How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
    Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2020-19924
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-18
    In Boostnote 0.12.1, exporting to PDF contains opportunities for XSS attacks.
    CVE-2020-20220
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-18
    Mikrotik RouterOs prior to stable 6.47 suffers from a memory corruption vulnerability in the /nova/bin/bfd process. An authenticated remote attacker can cause a Denial of Service (NULL pointer dereference).
    CVE-2020-20227
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-18
    Mikrotik RouterOs stable 6.47 suffers from a memory corruption vulnerability in the /nova/bin/diskd process. An authenticated remote attacker can cause a Denial of Service due to invalid memory access.
    CVE-2020-20245
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-18
    Mikrotik RouterOs stable 6.46.3 suffers from a memory corruption vulnerability in the log process. An authenticated remote attacker can cause a Denial of Service due to improper memory access.
    CVE-2020-20246
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-18
    Mikrotik RouterOs stable 6.46.3 suffers from a memory corruption vulnerability in the mactel process. An authenticated remote attacker can cause a Denial of Service due to improper memory access.