TIARA: Trust Management, Intrusion-tolerance, Accountability, and Reconstitution Architecture

Unknown author (2007-05-30)

The last 20 years have led to unprecedented improvements in chipdensity and system performance fueled mainly by Moore's Law. Duringthe same time, system and application software have bloated, leadingto unmanageable complexity, vulnerability to attack, rigidity and lackof robustness and accountability. These problems arise from the factthat all key elements of the computational environment, from hardwarethrough system software and middleware to application code regard theworld as consisting of unconstrained ``raw seething bits''. No elementof the entire stack is responsible for enforcing over-archingconventions of memory structuring or access control. Outsiders mayeasily penetrate the system by exploiting vulnerabilities (e.g. bufferoverflows) arising from this lack of basic constraints. Attacks arenot easily contained, whether they originate from the clever outsiderwho penetrates the defenses or from the insider who exploits existingprivileges. Finally, because there are no facilities for tracing theprovenance of data, even when an attack is detected, it is difficultif not impossible to tell which data are traceable to the attack andwhat data may still be trusted. We have abundant computational resources allowing us to fix thesecritical problems using a combination of hardware, system software,and programming language technology: In this report, we describe theTIARAproject, which is using these resources to design a newcomputer system thatis less vulnerable, more tolerant of intrusions, capable of recoveryfrom attacks, and accountable for their actions. TIARA provides thesecapabilities without significant impact on overall system performance. Itachieves these goals through the judicious use of a modest amountof extra, but reasonably generable purpose, hardware that is dedicatedto tracking the provenance of data at a very fine grained level, toenforcing access control policies, and to constructing a coherentobject-oriented model of memory. This hardware runs in parallel withthe main data-paths of the system and operates on a set of extra bitstagging each word with data-type, bounds, access control andprovenance information. Operations that violate the intendedinvariants are trapped, while normal results are tagged withinformation derived from the tags of the input operands.This hardware level provides fine-grained support for a series ofsoftware layers that enable a variety of comprehensive access controlpolicies, self-adaptive computing, and fine-grained recoveryprocessing. The first of these software layers establishes aconsistent object-oriented level of computing while higher layersestablish wrappers that may not be bypassed, access controls, dataprovenance tracking. At the highest level we create the ``planlevel'' of computing in which code is executed in parallel with anabstract model (or executable specification) of the system that checkswhether the code behaves as intended.