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6.4 Policy Background

Mandatory Access Control (MAC), refers to a set of access control policies that are mandatorily enforced on users by the operating system. MAC policies may be contrasted with Discretionary Access Control (DAC) protections, by which non-administrative users may (at their discretion) protect objects. In traditional UNIX systems, DAC protections include file permissions and access control lists; MAC protections include process controls preventing inter-user debugging and firewalls. A variety of MAC policies have been formulated by operating system designers and security researches, including the Multi-Level Security (MLS) confidentiality policy, the Biba integrity policy, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), Domain and Type Enforcement (DTE), and Type Enforcement (TE). Each model bases decisions on a variety of factors, including user identity, role, and security clearance, as well as security labels on objects representing concepts such as data sensitivity and integrity.

The TrustedBSD MAC Framework is capable of supporting policy modules that implement all of these policies, as well as a broad class of system hardening policies, which may use existing security attributes, such as user and group IDs, as well as extended attributes on files, and other system properties. In addition, despite the name, the MAC Framework can also be used to implement purely discretionary policies, as policy modules are given substantial flexibility in how they authorize protections.

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