Relationship-Based Access Control: Protection Model and Policy Language

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Social Network Systems pioneer a paradigm of access control that is distinct from traditional approaches to access control. Gates coined the term Relationship-Based Access Control (ReBAC) to refer to this paradigm. ReBAC is characterized by the explicit tracking of interpersonal relationships between users, and the expression of access control policies in terms of these relationships. This work explores what it takes to widen the applicability of ReBAC to application domains other than social computing. To this end, we formulate an archetypical ReBAC model to capture the essence of the paradigm, that is, authorization decisions are based on the relationship between the resource owner and the resource accessor in a social network maintained by the protection system. A novelty of the model is that it captures the contextual nature of relationships. We devise a policy language, based on modal logic, for composing access control policies that support delegation of trust. We use a case study in the domain of Electronic Health Records to demonstrate the utility of our model and its policy language. This work provides initial evidence to the feasibility and utility of ReBAC as a general-purpose paradigm of access control.
Security, Design, Language, Theory