Retrofitting Legacy Code for Authorization Policy Enforcement

Vinod Ganapathy, Trent Jaeger, and Somesh Jha.

In 2006 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy.

Oakland, California, May 2006.

Researchers have argued that the best way to construct a secure system is to proactively integrate security into the design of the system. However, this tenet is rarely followed because of economic and practical considerations. Instead, security mechanisms are added as the need arises, by retrofitting legacy code. Existing techniques to do so are manual and ad hoc, and often result in security holes.

We present program analysis techniques to assist the process of retrofitting legacy code for authorization policy enforcement. These techniques can be used to retrofit legacy servers, such as X window, web, proxy, and cache servers. Because such servers manage multiple clients simultaneously, and offer shared resources to clients, they must have the ability to enforce authorization policies. A developer can use our techniques to identify security-sensitive locations in legacy servers, and place reference monitor calls to mediate these locations. We demonstrate our techniques by retrofitting an X11 server to enforce authorization policies on its X clients.

Paper: [pdf] [ps]
Slides: [pps]

An alternate version of this paper appeared as a technical report.

This page updated May 30, 2006.