Symbolic Reachability Analysis for Parameterized Administrative Role Based Access Control

Scott D. Stoller, Ping Yang, Mikhail Gofman, and C. R. Ramakrishnan.

Role based access control (RBAC) is a widely used access control paradigm. In large organizations, the RBAC policy is managed by multiple administrators. An administrative role based access control (ARBAC) policy specifies how each administrator may change the RBAC policy. It is often difficult to fully understand the effect of an ARBAC policy by simple inspection, because sequences of changes by different administrators may interact in unexpected ways. ARBAC policy analysis algorithms can help by answering questions, such as user-role reachability, which asks whether a given user can be assigned to given roles by given administrators.

Allowing roles and permissions to have parameters significantly enhances the scalability, flexibility, and expressiveness of ARBAC policies. This paper defines PARBAC, which extends the classic ARBAC97 model to support parameters, proves that user-role reachability analysis for PARBAC is undecidable when parameters may range over infinite types, and presents a semi-decision procedure for reachability analysis of PARBAC. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first analysis algorithm specifically for parameterized ARBAC policies. We evaluate its efficiency by analyzing its parameterized complexity and benchmarking it on case studies and synthetic policies. We also experimentally evaluate the effectiveness of several optimizations.