Section: Research Program

Security Engineering

Several components are required to build up a system security architecture, such as firewalls, database user access control, intrusion detection systems, and VPN (Virtual Private Network) routers. These components must be properly configured to provide an appropriate degree of security to the system. The configuration process is highly complex and error-prone. In most organizations, security components are either manually configured based on security administrators expertise and flair; or simply recycled from existing configurations already deployed in other systems (even if they may not be appropriated for the current one). These practices put at risk the security of the whole organization.

We have started a Phd thesis in this domain intended to investigate the construction of a model-driven automatic reverse engineering mechanism (implemented as an extension of the MoDisco project) capable of analyzing deployed security aspects of components (e.g. concrete firewall configurations) to derive the abstract model (e.g. network security global policy) that is actually enforced over the system. Once the model is obtained, it can be reconciled with the expected security directives, to check its compliance, can be queried to test consistency or used in a process of forward engineering to generate validated security configurations.

As a first step we intend to apply model-driven techniques for the extraction of high level model representations of security policies enforced by firewalls. Firewalls, core components in network security systems, are generally configured by using very low level vendor specific rule-based languages, difficult to understand and to maintain. As a consequence, as the configuration files grow, understanding which security policy is being actually enforced or checking if inconsistencies has been introduced becomes a very complex and time consuming task. We propose to raise the level of abstraction so that the user can deal directly with the high level policies. Once a model representation of the enforced policy is available, model-driven techniques will ease some of the tasks we need to perform, like consistency checking, validation, querying and visualization. Easy migration between different firewall vendors will be also enabled.