# Overview of Authorization Policy Languages¶

Author

Matt Jones

Status

Incomplete Draft, Work in Progress being Edited

This document provides an overview of authorization technologies that have been considered as part of the design of the DataONE authorization and access control system.

Several open technologies can be used to express the policies for describing access control rules for resources and services in DataONE.

## eml-access¶

Ecological Metadata Language (EML) is in common use in the ecological and environmental monitoring community, and includes a simple module (eml-access.xsd) for describing access control policies for data resources. It allows both additive and subtractive rules, which allows one to either build up a set of allowed permissions and then subtract a few (e.g., all of the members of group ‘data-managers’ except ‘john), or to deny all of the members of a group and then add a few. After years of experience using EML within the KNB network, it has become clear that this ability to modify the ruleset using different approaches for combining the rules is unnecessary to express the typical rules needed in the stakeholder community. The complexity also makes it more difficult for users to understand the implications of the access rules that they write, and that even with use of a GUI, many users compose access expressions that do not capture their intent. Here is a simple eml-access block:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<eml:access
xmlns:eml="eml://ecoinformatics.org/access-2.1.0"
xmlns:xs="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema">
<eml>
<access
authSystem="ldap://ldap.ecoinformatics.org:389/dc=ecoinformatics,dc=org"
order="allowFirst">
<allow>
<principal>uid=alice,o=NCEAS,dc=ecoinformatics,dc=org</principal>
<permission>write</permission>
<allow>
</access>
<eml>


One of the shortcominings of eml-access is that it assumes that the linkage to a particular resource is expressed elsewhere (typically the access element is embedded in a broader EML document, thereby implicitly expressing which resources it applies to), and so it contains no mechanism for referencing the resource that is to be controlled. Experience with using eml-access in EML documents indicates that this mechanism is cumbersome and causes inadvertant creation of multiple versions of objects just to accomplish an access rule policy change. This is part of the motivation to moving access policies to SystemMetadata in DataONE (the other reason being that many metadata standards do not include an access policy descriptor at all).

## XACML 3.0¶

XACML 3 replaces version 2.

Note

Need to outline the approach to access control in version 3 and contrast it with versions 2 and 1.

## XACML 2.0¶

XACML 3 replaces version 1.

Note

Need to outline the approach to access control in version 2 and contrast it with version 1.

## XACML 1.0¶

The Extensible Access Control Markup Language (XACML) is an OASIS standard for representing access control policies for resources and services. XACML specifically includes support for federated systems in an open Internet environment, is an open standard, and is being widely adopted by various software systems. The advantages of XACML lie in its completeness and that it is an industry standard. The disadvantages for DataONE lie in its complexity, which makes it difficult to author, understand, and consume these documents because of the large number of permutations which it could support. As an example, below is the same access rule that is expressed in eml-access expressed instead in XACML. Note that there are multiple qualified mechanisms and types for matching values (e.g., string-equals), which is flexible but requires more implementation complexity than is specified in the DataONE authorization use cases. With XACML, one could express conditions that include complex functions and comparisons of arbitrary subject attributes (beyond identity).

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Policy
xmlns="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:policy"
xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
xsi:schemaLocation="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:policy
cs-xacml-schema-policy-01.xsd"
PolicyId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:conformance-test:IIA1:policy"
RuleCombiningAlgId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:rule-combining-algorithm:deny-overrides">
<Description>
</Description>
<Target>
<Subjects>
<AnySubject/>
</Subjects>
<Resources>
<AnyResource/>
</Resources>
<Actions>
<AnyAction/>
</Actions>
</Target>
<Rule
RuleId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:conformance-test:IIA1:rule"
Effect="Permit">
<Description>
Alice can read and write data object with id doi:10.5432/example.1
</Description>
<Target>
<Subjects>
<Subject>
<SubjectMatch
MatchId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:function:string-equal">
<AttributeValue
DataType="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#string">uid=alice,o=NCEAS,dc=ecoinformatics,dc=org</AttributeValue>
<SubjectAttributeDesignator
AttributeId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:subject:subject-id"
DataType="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#string"/>
</SubjectMatch>
</Subject>
</Subjects>
<Resources>
<Resource>
<ResourceMatch
MatchId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:function:string-equal">
<AttributeValue
DataType="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#string">doi:10.0000/example_data_identifier</AttributeValue>
<ResourceAttributeDesignator
AttributeId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:resource:resource-id"
DataType="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#string"/>
</ResourceMatch>
</Resource>
</Resources>
<Actions>
<Action>
<ActionMatch
MatchId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:function:string-equal">
<AttributeValue
<ActionAttributeDesignator
AttributeId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:action:action-id"
DataType="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#string"/>
</ActionMatch>
</Action>
<Action>
<ActionMatch
MatchId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:function:string-equal">
<AttributeValue
DataType="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#string">write</AttributeValue>
<ActionAttributeDesignator
AttributeId="urn:oasis:names:tc:xacml:1.0:action:action-id"
DataType="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#string"/>
</ActionMatch>
</Action>
</Actions>
</Target>
</Rule>
</Policy>


The XACML ‘Permit’ Effect is equivalent to the eml-access ‘allow’ rule, the XACML ‘Deny’ Effect is equivalent to the EML ‘deny’ element, the XACML ‘Subject’ is equivalent to the EML ‘principal’ element, and the XACML ‘Action’ element is equivalent to the EML ‘permission’ element. The XACML constructs have considerably more flexibility in what is expressed that is accomplished via the indirection in the model, but this flexibility and expressive power come at a significant cost in implementation time and software complexity that would need to be borne by all Member Node implementations.

## Simplified Policy Language (SPL)¶

A simplified syntax that acts as a front-end to XACML policies. See the SimplifiedPolicyLanguage web site for examples of use in the grid community.