RBAC: Solaris Role Based Access Control basics

Posted October 3, 2003 by Quinn McHenry in Solaris security

Solaris 8 and 9 have a powerful, integrated mechanism originally available only in trusted environments. Role based access control (RBAC) implements an authorization system based on least privilege. In this model, multiple administrative roles can be created and associated with users such that an individual has only the access necessary to perform their delegated tasks such as restarting privileged services, rebooting the system, or managing the print queue. RBAC allows finer grain control of implementing security policies. This recipe is the first of a series about RBAC and provides an introduction to its components.


RBAC Overview:
Central to Role Based Access Control is the role. A role is similar to a user in that it has a user id, a password, and even a home directory. Roles also have associations to specific tasks or capabilities assigned to them. A user that is authorized to assume a role simply switches to that role using the su command just as they would traditionally switch user to root.

RBAC configurations may seem daunting initially, but looking at some examples will help. Remember that users are assigned roles, roles are assigned profiles, and specific commands are assigned to profiles.

Configuration files:
/etc/user_attr user attributes database
This file associates users with the roles they are authorized to assume.

/etc/security/auth_attr authorization description database
Definitions of the authorizations are configured in auth_attr. An authorization in the context of RBAC grants the ability to perform some action.

/etc/security/exec_attr execution profiles database
Execution attributes defined in exec_attr are used to determine the profiles for commands run under RBAC and include the user id and effective user id that the command will run as.

/etc/security/prof_attr execution profile description database
Profiles are groupings of authorizations or security attributes that can be applied to users or roles. Profiles can simplify large-scale RBAC infrastructures but can seem to complicate simple configurations.

 

About Quinn McHenry

Quinn was one of the original co-founders of Tech-Recipes. He is currently crafting iOS applications as a senior developer at Small Planet Digital in Brooklyn, New York.
View more articles by Quinn McHenry

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