Ontology-Based Authorization Model for XML Data in Distributed Systems

Ontology-Based Authorization Model for XML Data in Distributed Systems

Amit Jain (University of South Carolina, USA) and Csilla Farkas (University of South Carolina, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2136-7.ch012
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This research work proposes a Semantic-Aware Authorization Framework, called SAAF, for applying syntax independent authorization on eXtensible Markup Language (XML) documents. Our model supports secure data sharing in an open environment without the need for a centralized authority and supports application flexibility. We propose the use of data and application semantics, expressed as Resource Description Framework (RDF) ontologies, to specify security requirements for XML documents. XML documents are associated with their semantics (RDF ontologies) via mappings. The authors use these mappings and the corresponding RDF authorizations models to generate access control permissions for the mapped XML documents. The SAAF ensures the preservation of authorization permissions on XML data even if the syntax and the structure of the data are changed. Their method also aids the detection and removal of inconsistent authorizations on structurally different but semantically similar XML data.
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The rapid increase in the number of intelligent and autonomous technologies to support Internet usage created the need to represent web data and application semantics in a machine understandable way. Web data, used by humans and automated tools, exist in heterogeneous format in a distributed and open environment. Frequently, data and application semantics are embedded in the syntax and structure of the data. While such indirect representation of semantics is usually understandable for humans, it is not the case for automated tools. Moreover, security policies that are expressed over a specific representation of the data may not be applicable if the syntax or the structure is modified. Web Services (WS), Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and the Semantic Web are the state-of-the-art technologies supporting this distributed and open data and application paradigm. Ontologies are the building blocks of these technologies, providing a methodology to represent domain information and semantics in a machine understandable way. Using ontologies, syntactic data representations (such as the eXtensible Markup Language (XML), stream data, or unstructured data) can be associated with the corresponding data semantics. This enables the software applications and autonomous agents to understand and process the data intelligently without any human intervention or the need to hard code application specific semantics. WS are distributed Web applications, interacting with each other over the internet. They form a crucial component of SOA. WS operate and interact according to a set of published standards. These standards provide a way of developing decoupled software modules. Then the applications can share and process data among themselves irrespective of the heterogeneity of used languages, platforms or technologies. Current trends of Web applications indicate that WS will become a fundamental technology for Web-based applications. Web Services use XML as the basic format for data exchange. To provide security for WS applications, industry and standards committees, such as W3C and OASIS, have developed a set of standards. Security standards for XML formatted data are a fundamental component of these standards. Most of the XML security standards, however, use the syntactic and structural aspects of the XML. For example, XML access control models apply authorizations on the XML data syntax and fail to focus on the data and application semantics embedded in the syntax and structure. This can cause any change in XML format to deem the original security details invalid.

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