Capabilities in JOS
Final Project for 6.828 Operating Systems EngineeringDecember 11, 2014
6.828 is a really fantastic operating system class taught at MIT.
6.828 teaches the fundamentals of engineering operating systems. You will study, in detail, virtual memory, kernel and user mode, system calls, threads, context switches, interrupts, interprocess communication, coordination of concurrent activities, and the interface between software and hardware. Most importantly, you will study the interactions between these concepts, and how to manage the complexity introduced by the interactions. – 6.828 Class Description
For my final project, I worked on the following:
When developing code, it can be difficult to reason about what a process is able to do, should be able to do, and does (these are three separate things). Often when designing secure software, it is desirable to follow the principle of least privilege, that is, an element can only perform the tasks which is must perform. Capabilities exist as a way of assisting the programmer properly permission and sandbox code. The core idea is that a master environment creates all the resources (such as file descriptors) that will be needed for the rest of the programs life, then removes its (and its children’s) ability to create further resources, then passes them to its children as appropriate. These file descriptors can be bundled with a set of permissions such as read only, append only, etc such that the master process can get fine grained control of what the child process may affect. In addition, certain syscalls can be “revoked” from an environment. These practices makes reasoning about application security much easier. For my final project, I augmented JOS with an inter environment capabilities system.