Flux Research Group / School of Computing

CeNet— Capability Enabled Networking: Towards Least-Privileged Networking

Jithu Joseph

Masters Thesis, University of Utah. December 2015.


In today’s IP networks, any host can send packets to any other host irrespective of whether the recipient is interested in communicating with the sender or not. The downside of this openness is that every host is vulnerable to an attack by any other host. We observe that this unrestricted network access (network ambient authority) from compromised systems is also a main reason for data exfiltration attacks within corporate networks. We address this issue using the network version of capability based access control.

We bring the idea of capabilities and capability-based access control to the domain of networking.

CeNet provides policy driven, fine-grained network level access control enforced in the core of the network (and not at the end-hosts) thereby removing network ambient authority. Thus CeNet is able to limit the scope of spread of an attack from a compromised host to other hosts in the network.

We built a capability-enabled SDN network where communication privileges of an endpoint are limited according to its function in the network. Network capabilities can be passed between hosts, thereby allowing a delegation-oriented security policy to be realized. We believe that this base functionality can pave the way for the realization of sophisticated security policies within an enterprise network.

Further we built a policy manager that is able to realize Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) policy based network access control using capability operations. We also look at some of the results of formal analysis of capability propagation models in the context of networks.