A software designer website

Access Control: Biscuit

Gautier DI FOLCO January 14, 2024 [dev] #access control #security #draft concepts

Some times ago we have seen Capabilities, the idea is simple: you have a token (e.g. a string), you provide as a key to to lookup associated permissions, which is intrinsically stateful.

Another way to look at it is provided by Biscuit, in which you have a set of facts you match against rules.

Note: rules and facts are expressed in a Datalog dialect, a subset of Prolog, which is, in my opinion, the most elegant programming language, and what we should aim at regarding programming languages/software design.

To check the authorization you have two blocks:

Authority:

right("/file1", "read");
right("/file2", "read");
right("/file2", "write");

Authorizer:

operation("write");
file("/file2");
can_view($file) <- right($file, "read");
allow if file($f), operation($op), right($f, $op);

You may also have a revocation list.

The process is done as follows

Here are the facts after resolution:

can_view("/file1");
can_view("/file2");

file("/file2");

operation("write");

right("/file1","read");
right("/file2","read");
right("/file2","write");

Biscuit gives us the flexibility to attenuate (i.e. restrict usage) of tokens, for example, if we want to share the token but only for read operation:

right("/file1", "read");
right("/file2", "read");
right("/file2", "write");
check if operation("read");

then, our Authorizer block, asking for write operation.

The interesting part is that the original token is not modified, new facts are just appended and signatures are chained.