Computer security is a branch of technology known as information security as applied to computers. The objective of computer security varies and can include protection of information from theft or corruption, or the preservation of availability, as defined in the security policy.
Computer security imposes requirements on computers that are different from most system requirements because they often take the form of constraints on what computers are not supposed to do. This makes computer security particularly challenging because it is hard enough just to make computer programs do everything they are designed to do correctly. Furthermore, negative requirements are deceptively complicated to satisfy and require exhaustive testing to verify, which is impractical for most computer programs. Computer security provides a technical strategy to convert negative requirements to positive enforceable rules. For this reason, computer security is often more technical and mathematical than some computer science fields. Typical approaches to improving computer security (in approximate order of strength) can include the following:
* Physically limit access to computers to only those who will not compromise security.
* Hardware mechanisms that impose rules on computer programs, thus avoiding depending on computer programs for computer security.
* Operating system mechanisms that impose rules on programs to avoid trusting computer programs.
* Programming strategies to make computer programs dependable and resist subversion.
Secure operating systems
Main article: Secure operating systems
One use of the term computer security refers to technology to implement a secure operating system. Much of this technology is based on science developed in the 1980s and used to produce what may be some of the most impenetrable operating systems ever. Though still valid, the technology is in limited use today, primarily because it imposes some changes to system management and also because it is not widely understood. Such ultra-strong secure operating systems are based on operating system kernel technology that can guarantee that certain security policies are absolutely enforced in an operating environment. An example of such a Computer security policy is the Bell-LaPadula model. The strategy is based on a coupling of special microprocessor hardware features, often involving the memory management unit, to a special correctly implemented operating system kernel. This forms the foundation for a secure operating system which, if certain critical parts are designed and implemented correctly, can ensure the absolute impossibility of penetration by hostile elements. This capability is enabled because the configuration not only imposes a security policy, but in theory completely protects itself from corruption. Ordinary operating systems, on the other hand, lack the features that assure this maximal level of security. The design methodology to produce such secure systems is precise, deterministic and logical.
Systems designed with such methodology represent the state of the art of computer security although products using such security are not widely known. In sharp contrast to most kinds of software, they meet specifications with verifiable certainty comparable to specifications for size, weight and power. Secure operating systems designed this way are used primarily to protect national security information, military secrets, and the data of international financial institutions. These are very powerful security tools and very few secure operating systems have been certified at the highest level (Orange Book A-1) to operate over the range of “Top Secret” to “unclassified” (including Honeywell SCOMP, USAF SACDIN, NSA Blacker and Boeing MLS LAN.) The assurance of security depends not only on the soundness of the design strategy, but also on the assurance of correctness of the implementation, and therefore there are degrees of security strength defined for COMPUSEC. The Common Criteria quantifies security strength of products in terms of two components, security functionality and assurance level (such as EAL levels), and these are specified in a Protection Profile for requirements and a Security Target for product descriptions. None of these ultra-high assurance secure general purpose operating systems have been produced for decades or certified under the Common Criteria.
In USA parlance, the term High Assurance usually suggests the system has the right security functions that are implemented robustly enough to protect DoD and DoE classified information. Medium assurance suggests it can protect less valuable information, such as income tax information. Secure operating systems designed to meet medium robustness levels of security functionality and assurance have seen wider use within both government and commercial markets. Medium robust systems may provide the same the security functions as high assurance secure operating systems but do so at a lower assurance level (such as Common Criteria levels EAL4 or EAL5). Lower levels mean we can be less certain that the security functions are implemented flawlessly, and therefore less dependable. These systems are found in use on web servers, guards, database servers, and management hosts and are used not only to protect the data stored on these systems but also to provide a high level of protection for network connections and routing services
Main article: Security architecture
Security Architecture can be defined as the design artifacts that describe how the security controls (security countermeasures) are positioned, and how they relate to the overall information technology architecture. These controls serve the purpose to maintain the system’s quality attributes, among them confidentiality, integrity, availability, accountability and assurance.”. In simpler words, a security architecture is the plan that shows where security measures need to be placed. If the plan describes a specific solution then, prior to building such a plan, one would make a risk analysis. If the plan describes a generic high level design (reference architecture) then the plan should be based on a threat analysis..
Taken from Wikipedia