XACML Vendor: eNitiatives

This is a new series of posts where I interview XACML vendors. The first one that was kind enough to participate was eNitiatives.

Why does the world need XACML? What benefits do your customers realize?

Our primary customers are in Government, Defense, Intelligence, Telecommunications, and Health, with some key multinationals. All of these customers are concerned about providing fine grained authorizations for controlled access to digital assets. In the Defense, Government, and Intelligence sectors this is especially critical.

What products do you have in the XACML space?

We have two current products where we have implemented XACML, and one upcoming:

  1. Firstly we have ViewDS. This is our LDAPv3, X.500 and ACP 133(D) Directory server. Here we have built a PEP into our Directory server and use XACML to provide Policy Based Access Control to all data that we store within our Directory. Our Directory includes an Indexing and Search engine supporting 24 different types of searching and matching and fully supports XPath queries and can understand XML content.

    ViewDS has a Management Agent used to control and manage content in our Directory Server. In our latest release, it now has an inbuilt Policy Administration Point tool. ViewDS also has an inbuilt Policy Decision Point. ViewDS thus acts as both an Identity Store and a Policy Information Point as policies can be stored in the Directory schema and are treated as Directory Attributes. As well as XACMLv3, ViewDS fully supports RBAC, Label Based Access Control and Time Based Access Control

  2. Our Second Product is known as ViewDS Access Sentinel. Access Sentinel is an XACMLv3 Policy Decision Point designed to be used for externalizing authorization policy for external applications. Access Sentinel provides a combined PDP, PIP, two PAPs and a number of PEPs off the shelf. ViewDS Access Sentinel can use either ViewDS as its identity store, or an external LDAP Directory or Virtual Directory as its LDAP Identity Store.

    ViewDS also supports multiple schemas and with its inbuilt join engine, ViewDS Access Sentinel plus ViewDS Discovery server offers the capability to also join other data from external services. We have a number of PEPs available and will be announcing some new ones in our v7.3 release. We also offer a second PAP tool for providing fully delegated policy creation

  3. Also in our next release (ViewDS v7.3) we will be launching a third product: ViewDS Identity Bridge. ViewDS Identity Bridge is a bidirectional synchronization and provisioning engine. This will also support XACMLv3

ViewDS and ViewDS Access Sentinel are available for Oracle Solaris 11g, two versions of GNU/Linux and Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7. Other implementations on versions of UNIX are available.

What versions of the spec do you support? What optional parts? What profiles?

In ViewDS version 7.2 (the current release) we support the core specification minus XPath, the Administration and Delegation Profile, the Hierarchical Resource Profile, the Multiple Decision Profile, the Privacy Profile, the Intellectual Property Control Profile and the Export Compliance-US Profile.

An internal build of ViewDS Access Sentinel already supports XPath version 1.0, and we have now built support for XPath in our two XACML PAPs. This capability will be in the next release due out in September. The next release will also support the administration and delegation profile and the multiple decision profile. We are also looking at an implementation of the Export ITAR Profile for a specific US Customer. We are also considering the GeoXACML extensions.

What sets your product(s) apart from the competition?

Unlike other vendors we do not require an external database license such as SQL Server or Oracle to store policies or require an external server. Our PDP, PIP, Attribute Identity Store and PAP are all in the one platform.

This means our product performs well, as all activities are internal function calls. That is, there is no external processing. Because we treat XACML policies as standard directory attributes (ViewDS itself fully supports XML), we can use standard directory protocols to distribute policies which are kept fully in sync with the associated identity attributes. Our Policy Administration Point tools also allow the creation of policies without the need to write any XML and support a capability known as Named Expressions.

What customers use your product(s)? What is your biggest deployment?

All of our ViewDS customers worldwide (our product is in use in Defense, Intelligence, Government, Aviation, Health and multinational corporations with installations in 16 countries) that upgrade to ViewDS v7.2 released in March will have the full capability of XACMLv3 in this release. Roughly 30% of our customers have upgraded already. Our largest implementation covers 26M identities, but our product has been tested with up to hundreds of millions of entries.

ViewDS Access Sentinel was released 3 months ago as a stand-alone product. So far we have a small number of installations in Australia and North America in the Government and Defense sectors.

What programming languages do you support? Will you support the upcoming REST and JSON profiles?

For PEP development, in our V7.2 release we currently support C#/.NET. We now have a PEP library for Java complete but not yet released. This will be provided to customers for the v7.3 release due in September.

Our current plan is to support both the REST Profile and the JSON Profile. However, the REST draft is not publicly available, has not been listed in the working group’s deliverables and hasn’t even been accepted by the working group yet according to the draft itself. This Working Draft (WD) has been produced by one or more TC Members; but we understand has not yet been voted on by the TC or approved as a Committee Draft (Committee Specification Draft or a Committee Note Draft).

Do you support OpenAz? Spring Security? Other open source efforts?

We are currently involved with other XACML vendors (BitKoo/Quest/Dell and Axiomatics) led by Felix Gaethgens from Axiomatics in an open source effort that is getting underway to create a PEP API and implementation for XACML version 3.0 among other things. We are not involved in any other open source effort.

However, we partner with Ping Identity for integration of Authentication and Authorization.

How easy is it to write a PEP for your product(s)? And a PIP? How long does an implementation of your product(s) usually take?

We provide a C#/.NET library known as PDP Liaison and now have a Java equivalent available to allow application vendors to create PEPs in a matter of days. We are currently considering making these Open Source solutions.

We expect a customer to be live in test mode and creating policies in 3 days depending on whether they are using ViewDS as the Identity Store or an external Identity store such as Active Directory.

Can your product(s) be embedded (i.e. run in-process)?

The PDP runs in a separate process.

What optimizations have you made? Can you share performance numbers?

Performance will vary depending on the number and nature of the policies, but version 7.2 has been clocked at 3650 XACML authorization requests per second with a single quad-core Intel Xeon E5430 CPU at 2.66 Ghz.

Risk-Adaptive Access Control with XACML

Risk-Adaptive Access Control (RAdAC) is an advanced access control model where access decisions depend on dynamic risk assessments. In this post, I’ll show how RAdAC can be used in the fight against Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs).

Before I make that point, let me start off with a simple illustration of RAdAC in action. Then I’ll show how to implement RAdAC using eXtensible Access Control Markup Language (XACML).

Risk-Adaptive Access Control Demo

I’ve built a simple demo around RAdAC, which Jeroen van Rotterdam showed at EMC World 2012. Here’s how it works.

In the default situation, the threat level is at green, and the user is able to see and edit a document:

Green

However, when the threat level goes to yellow, the user is no longer able to edit the document:
Yellow

Finally, when the threat level goes to red, the user can’t even see the document anymore:
Red

Using XACML to Implement Risk-Adaptive Access Control

The demo may be simplistic, but it is a fully working system based on XACML. And, not unimportant from a software development perspective, it was very easy to build.

Remember the XACML architecture:

Given this architecture, all we need (from a technical perspective) to support RAdAC is a Policy Information Point (PIP) that looks up the dynamic risk attributes (environment oval in the above diagram). Once we have that, these attributes can be used in access control policies like any other attribute (subject-id, role, resource-id, action-id, etc, etc.)

In the demo, the threat level is set by clicking the traffic light. In the real world, a PIP would be connected to an Intrusion Detection System so that it can calculate the value of the threat level attribute.

The nice thing with an access control architecture based on XACML, is that no software needs to be updated to support RAdAC. All we need is to hook up the Policy Decision Point (PDP) to a PIP that calculates the threat level. You could go finer-grained as well, and split the one threat level attribute into several, if that’s what your access control policies require. How you write your policies has no impact on your applications, since the PDP and PIP can be re-used across all applications in your organization.

Risk-Adaptive Access Control and the Fight Against Advanced Persistent Threats

I think it won’t be long before we’ll start seeing implementations of RAdAC, since it can be a big help in the struggle against APTs.

With RAdAC, we make decisions up front about what to do in the event of an intrusion, and formalize those decisions in automated access control policies. Then when a security incident occurs, we can focus our energy on getting the intruder off the system instead of on protecting our information assets, since that will already have been taken care of.

What do you think? Is your organization interested in solutions like these in the fight against APTs? Please share your thoughts in the comments.