Secure web applications via automatic partitioning

Stephen Chong, Jed Liu, Andrew C. Myers, Xin Qi, K. Vikram, Lantian Zheng, Xin Zheng
Cornell University

SOSP 2007
Stevenson, Washington, USA
ACM SOSP Best Paper Award


Swift is a new, principled approach to building web applications that are secure by construction. In modern web applications, some application functionality is usually implemented as client-side code written in JavaScript. Moving code and data to the client can create security vulnerabilities, but currently there are no good methods for deciding when it is secure to do so.

Swift automatically partitions application code while providing assurance that the resulting placement is secure and efficient. Application code is written as Java-like code annotated with information flow policies that specify the confidentiality and integrity of web application information. The compiler uses these policies to automatically partition the program into JavaScript code running in the browser, and Java code running on the server. To improve interactive performance, code and data are placed on the client side. However, security-critical code and data are always placed on the server. Code and data can also be replicated across the client and server, to obtain both security and performance. A max-flow algorithm is used to place code and data in a way that minimizes client–server communication.

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