Enforcing Security

1. Summary

This chapter discusses the Dataphor security model from a development perspective. It covers the basic concepts involved in the security model, and the mechanisms designed for use by application developers to expose security management points to application administrators.

2. Dataphor Security Model

The Dataphor Security Model consists of the following three primitives:

  • Rights

  • Roles

  • Users

Rights form the basic unit of permission for granting or revoking access to particular areas of a Dataphor application schema. Any capability that needs to be protected from a security standpoint should have an associated Right.

Roles provide a mechanism for managing groups of right assignments, and form the basis of security management in a Dataphor application schema.

Users provide the basic mechanism for authentication and authorization within a Dataphor Server. Each user is assigned a unique UserID, and given a user-specified password.

In addition to these basic elements, objects in the D4 catalog are owned by a specific user. By default, this is the user that created the object, but ownership can be transferred with the security API.

Each object in the catalog has an associated set of rights that are automatically created and maintained to protect access to the various operations available on that object such as alteration, execution, or manipulation. All these rights are implicitly granted to the object owner.

Users can have any number of right assignments. Each right assignment indicates whether a given user is granted or revoked a specific right.

Roles are sets of right assignments that can then be assigned all at once to a particular user. Roles are catalog objects that are defined with a library by the developer of the application.

Each user can be a member of any number of roles. As a member of a given role, the user has all the right assignments associated with that role. Note that in the event of conflicting right assignments, the most restrictive right assignment of any role is used.

When a specific right is requested, the following steps are taken to discover whether the right is granted or revoked:

  • If the user has an explicit assignment for the right, the right is granted or revoked according to the right assignment.

  • If the roles which the user is a member of have an explicit assignment for the right, the right is granted or revoked according to the most restrictive right assignment of any role.

  • If the user is the owner of the right, or the catalog object the right is associated with, the right is considered granted.

For more detailed information on the Dataphor Security Model, refer to the Security chapter in the Dataphor User’s Guide.

3. Designing For Security

Rights and roles are catalog objects, belonging to a specific library and owned by some user of the Dataphor Server. Users, on the other hand, are global to the Dataphor Server, and are managed by the administrator of the server instance. As such, applications should make no assumptions about the users that will be available on a given system. Security from the developer’s perspective is a matter of ensuring that the appropriate rights and roles are available to the administrator to enforce security simply and effectively.

Ideally, the administrator of a Dataphor application should not need to deal with managing specific right assignments to users. Rather, the administrator should be concerned with managing the users of the Dataphor Server, and with associating roles with those users.

This architecture leads to several important guidelines for developing secure and manageable applications with Dataphor:

  • Create roles for every anticipated usage pattern of the application.

  • Rights for every object should be granted to some role.

  • Roles should be intuitive and clearly named.

  • Roles should be as flat as possible, with as little overlap in functionality as possible.

4. Security in the Shipping Application

In this section we describe the security implementation in place in the Shipping Application as an example of using the security features of the Dataphor platform. Recall from the requirements for the application that there are three main categories of users: Management, Customer Service, and Inventory Clerk.

Management users are responsible for managing other users, and maintaining their access rights to the application. Fortunately, this role is already handled by the Dataphor Security library. The Security library provides user interfaces for administering security in a Dataphor Server, and exposes the SecurityUser role. Any user that is a member of this role will have access to all the objects required to use the user interfaces exposed in the Security library.

To handle Customer Service users, the Shipping Application introduces the CustomerService role. This role is granted access to table variables such as CustomerDetail and SaleOrderEntry, as well as select access to Location and ItemType.

For the Inventory Clerk users, the Shipping Application introduces the InventoryClerk role, which is granted access to table variables such as VendorDetail and PurchaseOrder. Inventory clerks are also given access to the Location and ItemType tables so that they can manage inventory and par levels.

In addition, the Shipping application defines the ShippingUser role, which is granted access to all the common areas of the system. This role is used to prevent overlap among the other roles.

By defining these roles, the application developer has identified the areas of the application that can be configured from a security standpoint. These roles can then be used by Dataphor Server Administrators to deploy secure applications with very little configuration involved.

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