Improving Application Security with Data Flow Assertions


RESIN is a new language runtime that helps prevent security vulnerabilities, by allowing programmers to specify application-level data flow assertions. RESIN provides policy objects, which programmers use to specify assertion code and metadata; data tracking, which allows programmers to associate assertions with application data, and to keep track of assertions as the data flow through the application; and filter objects, which programmers use to define data flow boundaries at which assertions are checked. s runtime checks data flow assertions by propagating policy objects along with data, as that data moves through the application, and then invoking filter objects when data crosses a data flow boundary, such as when writing data to the network or a file. Using RESIN, Web application programmers can prevent a range of problems, from SQL injection and cross-site scripting, to inadvertent password disclosure and missing access control checks. Adding a RESIN assertion to an application requires few changes to the existing application code, and an assertion can reuse existing code and data structures. For instance, 23 lines of code detect and prevent three previously-unknown missing access control vulnerabilities in phpBB, a popular Web forum application. Other assertions comprising tens of lines of code prevent a range of vulnerabilities in Python and PHP applications. A prototype of RESIN incurs a 33% CPU overhead running the HotCRP conference management application.