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Challenge: Confinement

From: Christian Stüble
Subject: Challenge: Confinement
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2006 17:47:34 +0200
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after a long time of following this list only passively, I would like to share 
some of my thoughts with you :-)

Background: I am working/researching/developing microkernel-based security 
architectures for a few years now, currently at Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB), 
Germany. At the moment, our group is involved in some R&D projects
related to trusted computing (TC) and security in general: E.g., PERSEUS 
(perseus-os.org), EMSCB (emscb.org), OTC (opentc.net), and some others. In 
this context, we are developing security-critical services and applications 
on top of L4 and Xen. Further important topics are security engineering, 
formal models, language-based security, and security protocols.

General: Since I am not aware of a multi-server system designs that fulfills
today's requirements, our group has to design and implement a lot of services 
from scratch - wasting a lot of time, since our main focus is security. 
Therefore, we would like to collaborate with further projects like hurd and 
coyotos, to share design ideas, use cases and implementations. Unfortunately, 
this seems to be impossible due to conflicting requirements (at least with 
hurd): We are using TC technology and we are even developing DRM-like 
applications (whatever this means). We do this for the following reasons: On 
the one hand, it is IMO better to prove that a better solutions exists if you 
want to criticise existing technology.  On the other hand, TC is currently 
the only technology that is widely available and fulfills (IMO) important 
security requirements. Yes, it could be misused (like nearly any 
security-related product), but our main develop/reasearch goal is an 
architecture that prevents misuse but allows many relevant use cases. The 
same holds for the DRM-like applications: We develop applications that allow 
the enforcement of security policies in a distributed environment, but which 
consider user rights and the law (keywords: multilateral security, fair use).

Challenge: I would like to give a more concrete example of an application that
IMO requires confinement (e.g., based on the security properties offered by TC 
technology): As you may know, we have in Germany strict laws regarding user 
privacy. E.g., a company is in general not allowed to give personal 
information to other institutions. Nevertheless, it is sometimes hard to 
prove that there was a leakage of information, or companies may be in
another country. Therefore, one of our goals is to develop an environment
that allows users to create an agent that controls their personal information 
and enforces, e.g.,  within the environment of a company, that it can only 
use personal information once, or that it cannot be shared with other 
companies, etc. But this requires that the owner of the platform executing 
the agent cannot access the internal state of the agent. A lot of people 
would call the agent a DRM application...

Another application, currently an (open) master thesis, is to develop a P2P 
filesharing client that uses DAA to connect to other clients. The motivation 
is to prevent modified clients that allow the platform owner to see the 
connection table (and thus to uncover the anonymity of clients). But this 
only makes sense if the platform owner cannot access the internal state of 

I would like to know to what extend people here are interested in a 
collaboration. If you think this is too OT to discuss it here, we can 
continue this discussion somewhere else..


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