Princeton SNS Group

{Scalable, Secure, Self-Organizing, Software-Defined, ...} Network Systems

Automating Application Security for Cloud Services

Network services play a central role in users’ online experiences. In doing so, these services often gather significant amounts of valuable, user-specific, and sometimes privacy-sensitive data. Unfortunately, in many client-facing applications, a vulnerability in any part may compromise the entire application. In order to address this problem, we have designed and implemented Passe, a system that protects a data store from unintended data leaks and unauthorized writes even in the face of application compromise.

Passe automatically splits (previously shared-memory-space) applications into sandboxed processes. Passe limits communication between those components and the types of accesses each component can make to shared storage, such as a backend database. In order to limit components to their least privilege, Passe uses dynamic analysis on developer-supplied end-to-end test cases to learn data and control-flow relationships between database queries and previous query results, and it then strongly enforces those relationships.

Our prototype of Passe acts as a drop-in replacement for the Django web framework. By running eleven unmodified, off-the-shelf applications in Passe, we demonstrate its ability to provide strong security guarantees — Passe correctly enforced 96% of the applications’ policies — with little additional overhead. Additionally, in the web-specific setting of the prototype, we also mitigate the cross-component effects of cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks by combining browser HTML5 sandboxing techniques with our automatic component separation.