Privacy-Aware Risk-Based Access Control Systems

PhD candidate Nadia Metoui

May 4, 2018
Versione stampabile

Time: h 14:00 
Location: Room Ofek, Polo Ferrari 1 - Via Sommarive 5, Povo (TN) 

PhD Candidate

  • Nadia Metoui

Abstract of Dissertation

Modern organizations collect massive amounts of data, both internally (from their employees and processes) and externally (from customers, suppliers, partners). The increasing availability of these large datasets was made possible thanks to the increasing storage and processing capability. Therefore, from a technical perspective, organizations are now in a position to exploit these diverse datasets to create new data-driven businesses or optimizing existing processes (real-time customization, predictive analytics, etc.). However, this kind of data often contains very sensitive information that, if leaked or misused, can lead to privacy violations.

Privacy is becoming increasingly relevant for organization and businesses, due to strong regulatory frameworks (e.g., the EU General Data Protection Regulation GDPR, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act HIPAA) and the increasing awareness of citizens about personal data issues. Privacy breaches and failure to meet privacy requirements can have a tremendous impact on companies (e.g., reputation loss, noncompliance fines, legal actions). Privacy violation threats are not exclusively caused by external actors gaining access due to security gaps. Privacy breaches can also be originated by internal actors, sometimes even by trusted and authorized ones. As a consequence, most organizations prefer to strongly limit (even internally) the sharing and dissemination of data, thereby making most of the information unavailable to decision-makers, and thus preventing the organization from fully exploit the power of these new data sources.

In order to unlock this potential, while controlling the privacy risk, it is necessary to develop novel data sharing and access control mechanisms able to support risk-based decision making and weigh the advantages of information against privacy considerations. To achieve this, access control decisions must be based on an (dynamically assessed) estimation of expected cost and benefits compared to the risk, and not (as in traditional access control systems) on a predefined policy that statically defines what accesses are allowed and denied.

In Risk-based access control for each access request, the corresponding risk is estimated and if the risk is lower than a given threshold (possibly related to the trustworthiness of the requester), then access is granted or denied. The aim is to be more permissive than in traditional access control systems by allowing for a better exploitation of data. Although existing risk-based access control models provide an important step towards a better management and exploitation of data, they have a number of drawbacks which limit their e↵ectiveness. In particular, most of the existing risk-based systems only support binary access decisions: the outcome is “allowed” or “denied”, whereas in real life we often have exceptions based on additional conditions (e.g., “ I cannot provide this information, unless you sign the following non-disclosure agreement.” or “ I cannot disclose this data, because they contain personal identifiable information, but I can disclose an anonymized version of the data.”). In other words, the system should be able to propose risk mitigation measures to reduce the risk (e.g., disclose partial or anonymized version of the requested data) instead of denying risky access requests. Alternatively, it should be able to propose appropriate trust enhancement measures (e.g., stronger authentication), and once they are accepted/fulfilled by the requester, more information can be shared.

The aim of this thesis is to propose and validate a novel privacy enhancing access control approach o↵ering adaptive and fine-grained access control for sensitive data-sets. This approach enhances access to data, but it also mitigates privacy threats originated by authorized internal actors. More in detail:

1. We demonstrate the relevance and evaluate the impact of authorized actors threats. To this aim, we developed a privacy threats identification methodology EPIC (Evaluating Privacy violation rIsk in Cyber security systems) and apply EPIC in a cybersecurity use case where very sensitive information is used.

2. We present the privacy-aware risk-based access control framework that supports access control in dynamic contexts through trust enhancement mechanisms and privacy risk mitigation strategies. This allows us to strike a balance between the privacy risk and the trustworthiness of the data request. If the privacy risk is too large compared to the trust level, then the framework can identify adaptive strategies that can decrease the privacy risk (e.g., by removing/obfuscating part of the data through anonymization) and/or increase the trust level (e.g., by asking for additional obligations to the requester).

3. We show how the privacy-aware risk-based approach can be integrated to existing access control models such as RBAC and ABAC and that it can be realized using a declarative policy language with a number of advantages including usability, flexibility, and scalability.

4. We evaluate our approach using several industrial relevant use cases, elaborated to meet the requirements of the industrial partner (SAP) of this industrial doctorate.