Distributed Trust Based Management: Who's Getting In?

By Tony M. Damico
2009, Vol. 1 No. 11 | pg. 1/1

With the explosion of the use of the Internet for nearly all forms of negotiable instrument exchange, the constant transmission of time sensitive and vital corporate communications, and the ubiquitous presence of malicious software writers, verifying who gets access to what has become a high-priority mission for all.

The idea that resources being sought after may be defined differently by different systems only underscores the complexity of the access-granting or access-restricting process (Blaze al., 1999). One method used for access control and authentication purposes is the Access Control List (ACL). The ACL is simply a list describing the access rights a given user has in a system. As Blaze writes, “The UnixTM-filesystem ‘permissions’ mechanism is essentially an ACL” (1999).

Although easy to grasp and well documented, the complexity of authentication in distributed systems has made the ACL “…inadequate for distributed-system security” (Blaze et al., 1999). The concept of a decentralized collaborative system, as described by Li et al, whose membership changes frequently and whose existence poses a new set of security problems, comprises a unique situation wherein there is no single authority to rely upon for access control or resource dedication.

As in the case of a national accounting firm that handles accounts related to a wide variety of industries and company size, there would be multiple offices across a wide geographical area with many managers vying for control and access to data or information. Few data sources are more confidential than the financials of a business. Maintaining strict confidentiality through precise access control is an absolute must. In a company managing funds and accounts for an eclectic set of clients, multiple access attempts from users of all levels and needs will be ongoing. A simple list attempting to identify and then delegate appropriate access authorization will not be adequate.

A programming language based control structure that verifies who is asking for exactly what and then uses a comparison structure to match up the user or the role the user adopts with a policy that distributes access rights and authorization based on “security policies, credentials, and relationships that allows direct authorization of security-critical actions” (Blaze et al., 1999) is a more modern and practical approach. A system that that has a huge number of people spread over a large geographical area that are making multiple requests for information, sometimes for the first time, makes a traditional system-security approach inadequate.

Multiple queries for access demand that not only are the authorizations appropriate but also that the policy referred to that allows access has authorization to grant access (Blaze et al., 1999). If, in the case of the national accounting firm, there is not an access scheme that ensures that those gaining access to sensitive information are authorized to do so, then there is no control. It becomes a case of knowing which objects are being requested by whom. After determining those two factors, a number of variables are considered in making an access decision.

Another way of stating the problem is as follows: “Does the set…of credentials prove that the request…complies with the local security policy…”. A general, company-wide policy being in effect, some degree of specificity by local entities is desirable. In this way, the policy may delegate the responsibility of authorization to those issuing the credentials. With the expertise of issuing credentials comes the domain expertise as well as understanding the relationships with those requesting access authorization. By using a “general-purpose, application independent algorithm for checking proofs of compliance,” a more sound and reliable “proof of compliance” will result (Ioannidis).

As the complexity of sharing information over a wide area with multiple possible users increases more and more, the need for a more comprehensive access authorization model has become apparent. Trust management has evolved as a method to handle that increased complexity. By the use of some fundamental concepts underlying trust management, including a programming language based control structure verifying identities, a comparison structure to match up the user with a role and a policy that distributes access rights and authorization, a fundamental authorization question may be answered. Proper credentials verify that a request complies with policy.

In a national accounting firm spread over a large geographical area, distributed trust management offers the level of scrutiny and complexity needed in order to ensure that not only are appropriate access authorizations maintained, but also that the authorizing body is also maintained. With a large enterprise, no one governing entity is able to handle the considerable amount of information requests. An independent application set up to handle requests, verify identities, compare requests with policies and grant access is necessary. Distributed trust management enables such control over sensitive data.

Blaze, M., Feigenbaum, J., Ioannidis, J., Keromytis, A. (1999). The role of trust management in distributed systems security. Retrieved April 13, 2009, from http://cs-www.cs.yale.edu/homes/jf/BFIK-SIP.pdf

Li, N., Mitchell, J., Winsborough, W. (No Date). Design of a role-based trust-management framework. Retrieved April 13, 2009, from http://crypto.stanford.edu/~ninghui/papers/rt_oakland02.pdf

Ioannidis, J., Keromytis, A. (No Date). Distributed trust. Retrieved April 13, 2009, from http://www1.cs.columbia.edu/~angelos/Papers/2004/tmreview.pdf

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

The Conceptual Access-Network Thesis proposed suggests that the development or success of any new internet-based product, service, or technology will ultimately be contingent upon how well it satisfies the criterion of providing... MORE»
In 2010, over 250,000 Syrian farmers were forced from their land due to water shortages. Lack of water left these farmers dangerously food insecure, so they moved, en masse, into Syrian urban centers. This strained an already overburdened infrastructure which increased tensions between urban dwellers and the displaced farmers (El... MORE»
Considering information is the most valuable asset of any organization, information security is one of the most important areas for every business and individual. Looking at the big picture, approximately 86% of all websites had a serious vulnerability in 2015.[1] Given this statistic, security measures such as passwords, data protection... MORE»
At present, ‘more than 80 percent of Afghan women are illiterate’.1 However, in the rural regions of Afghanistan, where more than 74 percent of the population lives, the illiteracy rate of females is closer to... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow IJ

Latest in Computer Science

2009, Vol. 1 No. 11
The earliest form of cryptography was the simple writing of a message, as most people could not read (New World, 2007). In fact, the very word cryptography comes from the Greek words kryptos and graphein, which mean hidden and writing, respectively... Read Article »
2015, Vol. 7 No. 10
Considering information is the most valuable asset of any organization, information security is one of the most important areas for every business and individual. Looking at the big picture, approximately 86% of all websites had a serious vulnerability... Read Article »
2012, Vol. 4 No. 04
Today, we live in the aftermath of the Internet revolution. Humanity has never before been more interconnected or had as much access to the same tools and information. As a driving force behind globalization and modern progress, the Internet enables... Read Article »
2009, Vol. 1 No. 11
As the sophistication of cyber criminals continues to increase, their methods and targets have also evolved. Instead of building the large Internet worms that have become so familiar, these criminals are now spending more time concentrating on wealth... Read Article »
2009, Vol. 1 No. 11
Multiple undersea internet cables were mysteriously severed and subsequently gained significant attention in the beginning of 2008. The attacks on those cables highlighted the enormous amount of internet traffic that uses the undersea cable system... Read Article »

What are you looking for?


"Should I Go to Graduate School?"
What is the Secret to Success?
How to Select a Graduate Research Advisor