Layering Security at Global Control Points to Secure Unmodified Software

Scott Ruoti, Kent Seamons, and Daniel Zappala

Developing secure software is inherently difficult, and is further hampered by a rush to market, the lack of cybersecurity-trained architects and developers, and the difficulty of identifying flaws and deploying mitigations. To address these problems, we advocate for an alternative paradigm-layering security onto applications from global control points, such as the browser, operating system, or network. This approach adds security to existing applications, relieving developers of this burden. The benefits of this paradigm are three-fold-(1) increased correctness in the implementation of security features, (2) coverage for all software, even non-maintained legacy software, and (3) more rapid and consistent deployment of threat mitigations and new security features. To demonstrate these benefits, we describe three concrete instantiations of this paradigm- MessageGuard, a system that layers end-to-end encryption in the browser; TrustBase, a system that layers authentication in the operating system; and software-defined perimeter, which layers access control at network middleboxes.

Scott Ruoti, Kent Seamons, and Daniel Zappala. 2017. Layering security at global control points to secure unmodified software. In Proceedings of the 2nd IEEE Secure Development Conference. IEEE.