[PAST EVENT] Colloquium: Secure programming via game-based synthesis

February 25, 2014
8am - 9am
McGlothlin-Street Hall, Room 020
251 Jamestown Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
William Harris, University of Wisconsin


Several recent operating systems provide system calls that allow an application to explicitly manage the privileges of modules with which the application interacts. Such privilege-aware operating systems allow a programmer to write a program that satisfies a strong security policy, even when the program interacts with untrusted modules. However, it is often non-trivial to rewrite a program to correctly use the system calls to satisfy a high-level security policy.

This talk concerns the policy-weaving problem, which is to take as input a program, a desired high-level policy for the program, and a description of how system calls affect privilege, and automatically rewrite the program to invoke the system calls so that it satisfies the policy. We describe a reduction from the policy-weaving problem to finding a winning strategy to a two-player safety game. We then describe a policy-weaver generator that implements the reduction, and present an experimental evaluation of the generator applied to a model of the Capsicum capability system. We conclude by outlining ongoing work in applying the generator to a model of the HiStar decentralized-information-flow control (DIFC) system.


William Harris is a Ph.D. candidate and research assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is advised by Somesh Jha and Thomas Reps. His current research focuses on applying formal methods to problems in computer security. He received his B.S. from Purdue University in 2007, and received his M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011. He has worked as a visiting researcher for NEC Labs America and Microsoft Research. He was a Microsoft Research Fellow from 2010 - 2011.