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From: <jamsden@us.ibm.com>
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 02:32:15 -0500
To: w3c-dist-auth@w3c.org
Message-ID: <852568B2.0029DDDD.00@d54mta03.raleigh.ibm.com>

Glad to see the renewed activity on WebDAV ACLs! I read this stuff in a
hurry, so I may have not understood all the potential issues or may have
missed some. But here's a start at least. I'm glad to see renewed activity
in ACLs. We should also take a look at emerging ACL models that are already
out there too. For example, the Java2 security model, IBM SecureWay,
Windows2000, etc. No need to invent a new one if an existing model would do
the job.

Review of the 00 Spec:

Need to examine the notion of ACL inheritance in the presence of bindings
where an actual resource may have more than one parent.

Consider deleting dynamic ACL inheritance and apply ACL edits on a
collection with a depth header.

Delete the concept of hierarchical properties. WebDAV should now know about
the structure of a property value any more than it should know about the
structure of the contents of a resource. This creates a coupling between
the access protocol and resource types that is not in the spirit of HTTP.

Remove ACLs on individual properties for now. This capability raises too
many issues. For example, should properties belong to groups so ACLs can be
applied to the group rather than just individual properties.

Need to be specific about what it means for a principal to (indirectly
through membership in various groups) to have both grant and deny rights on
the same resource. Deny should take precedence over grant.

If property ACLs are supported, add/deletechild could also apply to adding
and deleting properties. If not, use add/deletemember instead of child to
be consistent with collection nomenclature.


Geoff's 01 Spec:


March 24 Call:

An ACL has a list of ACEs.  Each server has a maximum number of ACEs per
ACL, which is implementation dependent.  The current proposal is to require
implementers to support at least 1 ACE granting permission to a user, and 1
ACE granting permission to a group.  Implementations are required to
implement a minimum of zero ACEs applying to a user or a group
What user? The owner? What group? I don't agree with the resolution of this
issue. I think it should be possible (is now) to have no ACL for a
resource. This implies it is not under access control and all rights are
available to all principals. Similarly it should be possible to have an ACL
which is empty implying no rights are granted to anyone. (Note that the
owner always has the right to change the ACLs, this can't be denied
implicitly or explicitly). Each ACE specifies a specific principal - an
individual authentication id, or an id of a group of authentication ids.
Given the ACL model, I don't know what a group permission would mean in
this context.

ACL is a property of a resource, from a ?model? point of view.  How they
are marshaled across the wire (e.g. via PROPPATCH or ACL methods) should be
left to discussion at the end of the process.
Don't agree. An ACL is not a property, its an ACL. ACLs as properties
raises the issue of exposing ACL information to PROPFIND/PROPPATCH, or
adding a bunch of special cases to prevent this. Servers should be free to
implement ACLs any way they want, and not treat them as properties. How
ACLs are marshalled across the wire *is* the business of the protocol, not
the server. PROPPATCH should not be overloaded with updating access
control. I think keeping ACLs and properties separate will avoid a lot of
complexity, controversy, and headach without bloating the protocol with too
many more methods. ACLs and properties are already separate concepts
regardles of how they are manipulated and marshalled.

Advanced access control provides more sophisticated capabilities, such as
the ability to both grant and deny rights, the ability to define rights
other than read and write, ACL inheritance, and access control on
properties of a resource.  A particular resource may support only a subset
of the advanced access control capabilities.
I think we should try to avoid two levels of access control. I suggest that
grant and deny are concepts that apply to read and write access and are
really already there in basic access. A "right" should just be a string,
just like lock scope and type. A server should be able to advertise any
rights on any resource, and this should be reported as part of the ACL
discovery on a resource. This is no more complicated than the similar
mechanisms for locking and should be include in basic access control.

ACL inheritance should just be deleted in favor of using a depth header on
the ACL method when the request URL references a collection. I think this
gets us what we need all in one spec.

I think we should defer ACLs on individual properties.

Every resource MUST be associated with two principals: a simple principal
called the "owner" of that resource and a compound principal called the
"group" of that resource.  An ACE that associates rights to the owner or
group of a resource rather than to a particular principal can then be
by a number of different resources.
I think a resource should have an owner, and this should be the same as the
DAV:author? But I don't think a resource needs a group. This sharing should
be done by applying the ACE or a complete ACL to the other resource rather
than implicitly through the owner or group. This can be done by getting the
ACL information and applying it to another resource, or using depth on a
collection. ACLs should be associated with resources only, not resources
and principals. But I may not understand the details of the proposal.

By default, a principal has no access rights to an object.
The current owner must always have the right to change owner and modify
ACLs. This can never be denied.

<!ELEMENT ace (principal, right*)>
should be:
<!ELEMENT ace (principal, allow*, deny*)>
The semantics already specify that rights may not be available. deny just
provides a conveniencs for listing what you can't do rather than listing
with you can do. The combination of right and deny just make the ace
smaller. There's no new semantics. With just read and write rights, this
doesn't matter, but if the right can be any string including All, then it
does. For example,
would let a principal do everyting but delete but doesn't require a
potentially long list.

The owner-principal XML element represents the owner of a
resource. This principal allows multiple resources to share the same ACL,
but have the ACL apply to whatever principal is identified as the owner of
the resource.
So owner-principal is an alias in an ACE that references the current owner
of the resource, whatever that principal might be? Where are the rights
associated with a principal stored? All rights are currently associated
with a resource through an ACE. The same principal may have very different
rights on different resources. There are no rights that are just associated
with the principal. A principal is not a resource that can have anything
associated with it. Its just an opaque string. I don't quite get this and
don't see why its necessary.

For example, suppose that the owner was given only the read right, while
group was given both read and write rights.  Even if the owner is a member
of that group, the owner only has exactly those rights given to it, i.e.
read only. In contrast, if the group were "granted" the write right, then
this would apply to all principals, whether or not there is a more specific
ACE that identifies that principal.
I find this confusing. It would seem that if the principal belongs to a
group, and the group has a right that doesn't conflict with the principal's
other right, then the principal has the right. Otherwise, Why bother with
belonging to the group. The rights of a group are implicitly granted or
denied when a principal becomes a member of the group. This is a privileged
operation too which is not described in the ACL spec. Is it outside the

When a resource is created it is given a set of default ACL properties from
a designated resource, referred to as an ACL source. The inheritance can be
"static", so that subsequent changes to the ACL source do not affect the
resources ACL properties; or it can be "dynamic", so that subsequent
are reflected in the new resource's ACL properties.
5.2 Use the same logic as for inheritance of deep locks and remove this
section. Then ACLs can be effected by MOVE too. Locks and ACLs are related
in that they both provide access control mechanisms. They should be treated
the same as much as possible.

Delete section 5.3, ACLs on individual properties, too. This would be
something like wanting ACLs on parts of the contents of a resource. I think
ACLs on the resource controlling access to its state - properties and
contents - should be enough. More might be better, but is it necessary?

It is legal for a property to carry a setting for what sort of inheritance
its children will have. Currently this value has no meaning as properties
can not have children, but it is expected in the future that hierarchical
properties will be adopted, so this setting will then have meaning. For now
compliant resources MUST record this value but do not have to do anything
with it.
I think this is really going too far. WebDAV should not know about the
structure of any property just like it doesn't know about the structure of
any resource other than its own meta-data.

<!ELEMENT ace (principal, (right | grant | deny)*)>
should be:
<!ELEMENT ace (principal, (grant | deny)*)>
right is redundant.

Here's a stab at the open issues from the last telecon:

Specificity:  how do multiple ACEs interact?

This is pretty well described in the 00 spec. More specific takes
precedence over general. Deny takes precedence over grant. Is there a
specific issue missing?

Does the distinction between users and groups need to be made in an ACE?

No. A group is just an aggregate of principals for convenience purposes. It
adds no additional semantic capability.

?checkPermissions? method:  ?do I have rights to do the following operation
if I tried it?

HTTP is a "try it and see what happens" or challenge response paradigm.
This has worked well so far for access control. If the operation works, a
client wouldn't want to waste the time checking ahead of time. If it fails
due to access control, the client will know from the returned status code
and can do whatever it would have done after a "checkPermissions" method. I
don't see the need.

Do we need an owner?  Can?t I just use a user principal?

I don't know what a user principal is. It has to refer to a particular
owner. In UNIX, user is a generic alias for the current owner of the
resource. Its not a particular principal. Same with group. WebDAV ACLs are
different in that they have lists of ACEs rather than just current owner,
current group, and other as in UNIX.

Some discussion of read/write permission on ACLs themselves.  General
agreement to defer access control on ACLs to ?advanced?, with the
owner-based model for CORE.

The author should always have permission to change ACLs and can grant or
deny this permission to other principals. The ability to change the owner
must be restricted to the current owner only.

A group should be a resource so it has an owner and can have access control
on it too. Maybe a principal should be a resource and a group a kind of
collection of principals.

Do we need a way to discover how many ACEs a server can support in an ACL?

Why would we ever consider specifying a limit? We don't expect servers to
have some limit to the number of resources they can manage although we do
expect that we could get an error anytime if the server runs out of space.
Why not treat ACLs the same way?
Received on Thursday, 30 March 2000 02:37:49 UTC

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