Domain and Type Enforcement Firewalls

K. Oostendorp, L. Badger, C. Vance, W. Morrison, D. Sherman & D. Sterne

Internet-connected organizations often employ an Internet firewall to mitigate risks of system penetration, data theft, data destruction, and other security breaches. Conventional Internet firewalls, however, impose an overly simple inside-vs-outside model of security that is incompatible with many business practices that require extending limited trust to external entities, for example, suppliers, bankers, accountants, advisors, consultants, partners, customers, and allies. Additionally, firewall security perimeters are somewhat weak: they provide no protection from inside attacks and do not protect sensitive data, which can be exported by tunneling through permitted protocols. As the Internet evolves towards applets, mobile agents, and object frameworks, these problems likely will worsen.

This paper reports on our experience with an enhanced security firewall based on Domain and Type Enforcement (DTE), a strong but flexible form of access control. A DTE firewall provides several benefits. First, it runs application-level proxies in restrictive domains, thereby increasing security, and runs network services such as HTTP and FTP under DTE controls, thereby reducing risks that network-based attacks will succeed. Second, a DTE firewall coordinates role-based security policies that span networks by passing DTE security attributes between DTE clients and servers. By coordinating DTE security at the endpoints, a DTE firewall adds defense in depth to the traditional firewall security perimeter: this permits safe exportation of normally risky services such as NFS. Finally, a DTE firewall interoperates with ``non-DTE'' systems and associates DTE security attributes with these systems so their interaction with DTE-aware clients or servers can be controlled. We describe here the design of a prototype DTE firewall system and informally evaluate its security, compatibility, functionality, and performance.