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Re: Security framework issues

From: Neil Tiffin
Subject: Re: Security framework issues
Date: Sat, 23 Nov 2002 12:35:24 -0500

Stanley & Reinhard,

I believe the discussion regarding security is an important one and I am glad someone is addressing it. With that said I also would like suggest some additional direction. I am not a security expert so if I have something wrong here I hope someone will point it out.

1. Security discussions should include both a "how we could/should do it now" and "how we should do it right" sections. I believe keeping up with the secure linux project is important but we won't be using this operating system anytime soon. So any security discussion should include what will work now with Python and Debian.

2. I believe the project is committed to a Windows version. So we have to have alternatives for Windows. Alternatives does not mean the exact same level of security but rather a way for it to work. It will always be up to the implementation team to decide if a particular implementation is secure enough.

3. I have a hard time following only conceptual discussions and determining if they are implementable. Any conceptual discussions should include enough practical directions that someone could start working on the code (like what libraries could be used etc). This also forces the discussion down to earth somewhat and I do not think it limits the discussion as much as it makes the discussion more valuable to the current project.

4. The issue that I would like to understand (and excuse me if this seems a bit basic) is how the appserver port will be protected. The way appserver works is that it is a service that is running on a server waiting for connections. When appserver gets a connection it responds by providing the information according to the API.

Are we going to use some operating system protection that (maybe TCPwrappers, if it does this) will assure that anyone connecting to the port has the proper credentials? With my current understanding I don't see how this will work. Or is appserver going to be responsible for determining that a connection is allowed. My experience has shown that business middleware needs finer security than the operating system provides (Role based has been suggested and I agree conceptually with this but don't understand how it is implemented).

In the enterprise there are lots of security issues that will need to be addressed in the middleware. For example some detail fields are OK to expose as long as someone does not have access to the summary of the fields. For example a data entry clerks may see total sales currency for an order but management may not want them to see total sales for the month or year. The reverse may also hold in that summary data may be ok if someone does not have access to the details. For example payroll, departmental totals are ok, while individual salaries are not.

So currently, I do not see any way that the appserver can get by without having a security layer.

5. When the connection is made to appserver I would like to understand what credentials will be passed to the appserver so that it knows it can allow the connection and what authority that connection has. For example will a token be passed with each request? Will a separate application be responsible for providing and validating these tokens? Will this be stateless or will a connection be established and then all communications with that IP be valid? Or some other method?

6. Based on my experience the appserver should communicate with the database using its own credentials and users should communicate with appserver with their own credentials. I am currently responsible for an application that does not work this way and there is no way to secure bypassing the middleware with lower level tools using the users credentials.

7. I know others do not agree with me, but there is no way GNUE in its current state could be used in our organization without a better security framework (unless I don't understand it). If GNUE had a good security framework then I could be replacing system we use now that are based on windows and are security nightmares.

I am looking forward to a new draft of teh security document. There is a lot of value to have security built in from the start.

Thanks for listening.


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