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Introduction
The TrustedBSD MAC framework provides a mechanism to allow the compile-time or run-time extension of the kernel access control model. New system policies may be implemented as kernel modules and linked to the kernel; if multiple policy modules are present, their results will be composed. The MAC Framework provides a variety of access control infrastructure services to assist policy writers, including support for transient and persistent policy-agnostic object security labels. This support is currently considered experimental.
This chapter provides information appropriate for developers of policy modules, as well as potential consumers of MAC-enabled environments, to learn about how the MAC Framework supports access control extension of the kernel.
Policy Background
Mandatory Access Control (MAC), refers to a set of access control policies that are mandatorily enforced on users by the operating system. MAC policies may be contrasted with Discretionary Access Control (DAC) protections, by which non-administrative users may (at their discretion) protect objects. In traditional UNIX systems, DAC protections include file permissions and access control lists; MAC protections include process controls preventing inter-user debugging and firewalls. A variety of MAC policies have been formulated by operating system designers and security researches, including the Multi-Level Security (MLS) confidentiality policy, the Biba integrity policy, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), Domain and Type Enforcement (DTE), and Type Enforcement (TE). Each model bases decisions on a variety of factors, including user identity, role, and security clearance, as well as security labels on objects representing concepts such as data sensitivity and integrity.
The TrustedBSD MAC Framework is capable of supporting policy modules that implement all of these policies, as well as a broad class of system hardening policies, which may use existing security attributes, such as user and group IDs, as well as extended attributes on files, and other system properties. In addition, despite the name, the MAC Framework can also be used to implement purely discretionary policies, as policy modules are given substantial flexibility in how they authorize protections.
MAC Framework Kernel Architecture
The TrustedBSD MAC Framework permits kernel modules to extend the operating system security policy, as well as providing infrastructure functionality required by many access control modules. If multiple policies are simultaneously loaded, the MAC Framework will usefully (for some definition of useful) compose the results of the policies.
Kernel Elements
The MAC Framework contains a number of kernel elements:
Framework management interfaces
Concurrency and synchronization primitives.
Policy registration
Extensible security label for kernel objects
Policy entry point composition operators
Label management primitives
Entry point API invoked by kernel services
Entry point API to policy modules
Entry points implementations (policy life cycle, object life cycle/label management, access control checks).
Policy-agnostic label-management system calls
<function>mac_syscall()</function> multiplex system call
Various security policies implemented as MAC policy modules
Framework Management Interfaces
The TrustedBSD MAC Framework may be directly managed using sysctl's, loader tunables, and system calls.
In most cases, sysctl's and loader tunables of the same name modify the same parameters, and control behavior such as enforcement of protections relating to various kernel subsystems. In addition, if MAC debugging support is compiled into the kernel, several counters will be maintained tracking label allocation. It is generally advisable that per-subsystem enforcement controls not be used to control policy behavior in production environments, as they broadly impact the operation of all active policies. Instead, per-policy controls should be preferred, as they provide greater granularity and greater operational consistency for policy modules.
Loading and unloading of policy modules is performed using the system module management system calls and other system interfaces, including boot loader variables; policy modules will have the opportunity to influence load and unload events, including preventing undesired unloading of the policy.
Policy List Concurrency and Synchronization
As the set of active policies may change at run-time, and the invocation of entry points is non-atomic, synchronization is required to prevent loading or unloading of policies while an entry point invocation is in progress, freezing the set of active policies for the duration. This is accomplished by means of a framework busy count: whenever an entry point is entered, the busy count is incremented; whenever it is exited, the busy count is decremented. While the busy count is elevated, policy list changes are not permitted, and threads attempting to modify the policy list will sleep until the list is not busy. The busy count is protected by a mutex, and a condition variable is used to wake up sleepers waiting on policy list modifications. One side effect of this synchronization model is that recursion into the MAC Framework from within a policy module is permitted, although not generally used.
Various optimizations are used to reduce the overhead of the busy count, including avoiding the full cost of incrementing and decrementing if the list is empty or contains only static entries (policies that are loaded before the system starts, and cannot be unloaded). A compile-time option is also provided which prevents any change in the set of loaded policies at run-time, which eliminates the mutex locking costs associated with supporting dynamically loaded and unloaded policies as synchronization is no longer required.
As the MAC Framework is not permitted to block in some entry points, a normal sleep lock cannot be used; as a result, it is possible for the load or unload attempt to block for a substantial period of time waiting for the framework to become idle.
Label Synchronization

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(itstool) path: listitem/para
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read-only
Source string location
book.translate.xml:4514
String age
a year ago
Source string age
a year ago
Translation file
books/arch-handbook.pot, string 586