17.13 The MAC Biba Module

Module name: mac_biba.ko

Kernel configuration line: options MAC_BIBA

Boot option: mac_biba_load="YES"

The mac_biba(4) module loads the MAC Biba policy. This policy works much like that of the MLS policy with the exception that the rules for information flow are slightly reversed. This is said to prevent the downward flow of sensitive information whereas the MLS policy prevents the upward flow of sensitive information; thus, much of this section can apply to both policies.

In Biba environments, an “integrity” label is set on each subject or object. These labels are made up of hierarchal grades, and non-hierarchal components. As an object's or subject's grade ascends, so does its integrity.

Supported labels are biba/low, biba/equal, and biba/high; as explained below:

Biba provides for:

The following sysctl tunables can be used to manipulate the Biba policy.

To access the Biba policy setting on system objects, use the setfmac and getfmac commands:

# setfmac biba/low test
# getfmac test
test: biba/low

17.13.1 Planning Mandatory Integrity

Integrity, different from sensitivity, guarantees that the information will never be manipulated by untrusted parties. This includes information passed between subjects, objects, and both. It ensures that users will only be able to modify and in some cases even access information they explicitly need to.

The mac_biba(4) security policy module permits an administrator to address which files and programs a user or users may see and invoke while assuring that the programs and files are free from threats and trusted by the system for that user, or group of users.

During the initial planning phase, an administrator must be prepared to partition users into grades, levels, and areas. Users will be blocked access not only to data but programs and utilities both before and after they start. The system will default to a high label once this policy module is enabled, and it is up to the administrator to configure the different grades and levels for users. Instead of using clearance levels as described above, a good planning method could include topics. For instance, only allow developers modification access to the source code repository, source code compiler, and other development utilities. While other users would be grouped into other categories such as testers, designers, or just ordinary users and would only be permitted read access.

With its natural security control, a lower integrity subject is unable to write to a higher integrity subject; a higher integrity subject cannot observe or read a lower integrity object. Setting a label at the lowest possible grade could make it inaccessible to subjects. Some prospective environments for this security policy module would include a constrained web server, development and test machine, and source code repository. A less useful implementation would be a personal workstation, a machine used as a router, or a network firewall.