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DBTaint: Cross-Application Information Flow Tracking via Databases ∗

By Benjamin Davis and Hao Chen


Information flow tracking has been an effective approach for identifying malicious input and detecting software vulnerabilities. However, most current schemes can only track data within a single application. This singleapplication approach means that the program must consider data from other programs as either all tainted or all untainted, inevitably causing false positives or false negatives. These schemes are insufficient for most Web services because these services include multiple applications, such as a Web application and a database application. Although system-wide information flow tracking is available, these approaches are expensive and overkill for tracking data between Web applications and databases because they fail to take advantage of database semantics. We have designed DBTaint, which provides information flow tracking in databases to enable crossapplication information flow tracking. In DBTaint, we extend database datatypes to maintain and propagate taint bits on each value. We integrate Web application and database taint tracking engines by modifying the database interface, providing cross-application information flow tracking transparently to the Web application. We present two prototype implementations for Perl and Java Web services, and evaluate their effectiveness on two real-world Web applications, an enterprise-grade application written in Perl and a robust forum application written in Java. By taking advantage of the semantics of database operations, DBTaint has low overhead: our unoptimized prototype incurs less than 10-15 % overhead in our benchmarks. ∗ This research is partially supported by NSF CNS award 0644450 and by an AFOSR MURI award.

Year: 2010
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