NIST: machine learning for access control policy verification

Access control policy verification ensures that there are no faults within the policy that leak or block access privileges. As a software test, access control policy verification relies on methods such as model proof, data structure, system simulation, and test oracle to verify that the policy logic functions as expected.

However, these methods have capability and performance issues related to inaccuracy and complexity limited by applied technologies. For instance, model proof, test oracle, and data structure methods initially assume that the policy under verification is faultless unless the policy model cannot hold for test cases.

Thus, the challenge of the method is to compose test cases that can comprehensively discover all faults. Alternatively, a system simulation method requires translating the policy to a simulated system. The translation between systems may be difficult or impractical to implement if the policy logic is complicated or the number of policy rules is large.

To answer these challenges, an internal report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) proposes an efficient and straightforward method for access control policy verification by applying a classification algorithm of machine learning, which does not require comprehensive test cases, oracle, or system translation but rather checks the logic of policy rules directly, making it more efficient and feasible compared to traditional methods.

The report demonstrates an experiment for the proposed method with an example that uses current available machine learning tools to facilitate the random forest classification algorithm. The result illustrates its capabilities as well as parameter settings for performing the verification steps. Ultimately, three general applications are provided: enhancement of existing verification methods, verification of access control policies with numerical attributes, and policy enforcement that can be supported by the proposed machine learning policy verification method.

Read the full report

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