Object Capabilities for Security

Posted in Conferences, Companies, Development on December 25, 2007

Google Tech Talks
November, 30 2007


Existing systems often do a poor job of meeting the principle of least privilege. I will discuss how object capability systems and language-based methods can help address this shortcoming. In language-based object capability systems, an object reference is treated as a capability; unforgeability of references ensures unforgeability of capabilities; and all privileges are expressed as capabilities in this way. This makes it possible to decompose the system into distrusting "privilege-separated" components, providing each component with the least privilege it needs to do its job; to reason about the privileges and powers available to various program elements, often in a local (modular) way; and to avoid common pitfalls, such as confused deputy and TOCTTOU vulnerabilities.

I will attempt to introduce the audience to some work in this area that is perhaps not so widely known, and I will describe some work in progress to construct a subset of Java, called Joe-E, that is intended to enable capability-style programming using a programming syntax that is familiar to Java programmers.

Speaker: David Wagner
David Wagner is an Associate Professor in the Computer Science Division at the University of California at Berkeley with extensive experience in computer security and cryptography. He and his Berkeley colleagues are known for discovering a wide variety of security vulnerabilities in various cellphone standards, 802.11 wireless networks, and other widely deployed systems, and he has published two books and over 90 peer-reviewed scientific papers. David is a founding member of the ACCURATE center on electronic voting. He is active in the areas of systems security, cryptography, and electronic voting.

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