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TITLE: Building a Virus-Safe Computing Platform: Don't Add Security, Remove Insecurity

SPEAKER: Mark S. Miller [HP Labs]

DATE: 2:00 - 3:00 P.M., Tuesday November 25, 2003

LOCATION: Sigma, 1L (PA)

HOST: Vinay Deolalikar


When you run Solitaire, why can it delete any file you can? Such pervasive excesses of access rights cause our vulnerability to viruses and more. For thirty years, mainstream systems -- such as today's Unixes, Windows, Java, .NET -- have been built on two conflicting logics of access: capabilities and ACLs. They unsuccessfully provide security using ACL logic. They successfully provide functionality using modularity and abstraction mechanisms which follow capability logic.

E, a distributed secure object-capability language, is the plumbing underneath CapDesk, the virus-safe desktop demonstrated in Marc Stiegler's earlier talk on the "SkyNet Virus". E's security derives mostly by removing from conventional objects all causal pathways outside the pure object model -- leaving only capability-based access. Rather than making users chose between functionality and security, we use one access paradigm to provide both together. As an example, we show secure distributed money implemented in 15 lines of readable E code.


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