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This paper describes an operating system security architecture capable of supporting a wide range of security policies, and the implementation of this architecture as part of the Flask microkernel-based operating system. It provides a usable definition of policy flexibility, identifies limitations of this definition and highlights the need for atomicity. It shows that capability systems and interposition techniques are inadequate for achieving policy flexibility. It presents the Flask architecture and describes how Flask overcomes the obstacles to achieving policy flexibility, including the need for atomicity. Although the performance evaluation of the Flask prototype is incomplete, this paper demonstrates that the architecture is practical to implement and flexible to use. Moreover, the architecture should be applicable to many other operating systems.

Stephen D. Smalley