Context-Aware and Adaptive Usage Control Model




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Information protection is a key issue for the acceptance and adoption of pervasive computing systems where various portable devices such as smart phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and laptop computers are being used to share information and to access digital resources via wireless connection to the Internet. Because these are resources constrained devices and highly mobile, changes in the environmental context or device context can affect the security of the system a great deal. A proper security mechanism must be put in place which is able to cope with changing environmental and system context.

Usage CONtrol (UCON) model is the latest major enhancement of the traditional access control models which enables mutability of subject and object attributes, and continuity of control on usage of resources. In UCON, access permission decision is based on three factors: authorisations, obligations and conditions. While authorisations and obligations are requirements that must be fulfilled by the subject and the object, conditions are subject and object independent requirements that must be satisfied by the environment. As a consequence, access permission may be revoked (and the access stopped) as a result of changes in the environment regardless of whether the authorisations and obligations requirements are met. This constitutes a major shortcoming of the UCON model in pervasive computing systems which constantly strive to adapt to environmental changes so as to minimise disruptions to the user.

We propose a Context-Aware and Adaptive Usage Control (CA-UCON) model which extends the traditional UCON model to enable adaptation to environmental changes in the aim of preserving continuity of access. Indeed, when the authorisation and obligations requirements are fulfilled by the subject and object, and the conditions requirements fail due to changes in the environmental or the system context, our proposed model CA-UCON triggers specific actions in order to adapt to the new situation, so as to ensure continuity of usage.

We then propose an architecture of CA-UCON model, presenting its various components. In this model, we integrated the adaptation decision with usage decision architecture, the comprehensive definition of each components and reveals the functions performed by each components in the architecture are presented.

We also propose a novel computational model of our CA-UCON architecture. This model is formally specified as a finite state machine. It demonstrates how the access request of the subject is handled in CA-UCON model, including detail with regards to revoking of access and actions undertaken due to context changes. The extension of the original UCON architecture can be understood from this model.

The formal specification of the CA-UCON is presented utilising the Calculus of Context-aware Ambients (CCA). This mathematical notation is considered suitable for modelling mobile and context-aware systems and has been preferred over alternatives for the following reasons: (i) Mobility and Context awareness are primitive constructs in CCA; (ii) A system's properties can be formally analysed; (iii) Most importantly, CCA specifications are executable allowing early validation of system properties and accelerated development of prototypes.

For evaluation of CA-UCON model, a real-world case study of a ubiquitous learning (u-learning) system is selected. We propose a CA-UCON model for the u-learning system. This model is then formalised in CCA and the resultant specification is executed and analysed using an execution environment of CCA.

Finally, we investigate the enforcement approaches for CA-UCON model. We present the CA-UCON reference monitor architecture with its components. We then proceed to demonstrate three types of enforcement architectures of the CA-UCON model: centralised architecture, distributed architecture and hybrid architecture. These are discussed in detail, including the analysis of their merits and drawbacks.



Usage Control, Context-aware, Adaptation, CCA, Enforcement



Research Institute