Oracle Solaris Trusted Extensions Label Administration

Chapter 1 Labels in Trusted Extensions Software

This chapter prepares the security administrator to create the file that encodes labels for Trusted Extensions. This chapter covers the following topics:

This chapter assumes that you have read the following sections:

Labels and Security Policy

Site security policy is the security policy that an organization sets up to protect its proprietary information. With Trusted Extensions software, labels and mandatory access control (MAC) can be part of this policy. Labels implement a set of rules that is a part of system security policy. System security policy is the set of rules that is enforced by system software to protect information that is being processed on the system. The term security policy can refer to policy or to implementation of the policy.

All systems that are configured with Trusted Extensions have labels. Labels are specified in a label_encodings file. For a description of the file, see the label_encodings(4) man page. For descriptions of the encodings files that are delivered with Solaris Trusted Extensions packages, see Sources for Encodings Files.

Trusted Extensions installs a default version of the label_encodings file. The default version supplies several commercial labels. This version can sometimes be used in non-production environments for learning purposes. A site can also customize one of the label encodings files that are delivered with the Solaris Trusted Extensions packages. For an example of a site-specific file, see Appendix A, Sample Label Encodings File.

Every computer in the Trusted Extensions network needs its own copy of the site's label_encodings file. For interoperability, the label_encodings file on every computer in the network should be compatible. At the very least, each computer should recognize the labels on every other computer in the network.

Certain types of labels must be defined. The security administrator specifies the numeric values and the bits that make up the internal representation of labels. Users and roles see the textual representation of labels. The labeling software translates between the internal form and the textual form of labels. The label_encodings file provides the rules for translating the internal representation of labels to their textual strings. The textual strings can be visible on the desktop. The internal representation is recorded in the audit trail and is interpreted by the praudit command.

The security administrator is the person who defines and plans the implementation of an organization's security policy. The security administrator establishes information-protection procedures, makes sure computer users and administrators are properly trained, and monitors compliance.

The Security Administrator role is created in the software. The role is assigned to one or more administrators who fully understand Trusted Extensions administration. These administrators are cleared to view and to protect the highest level of information that is processed by Trusted Extensions. One of the responsibilities of the security administrator is to create the site's label_encodings file to replace the version that Trusted Extensions installs. The administrator can also decide whether labels are visible on the desktop. Even when labels are not visible, objects and processes on the system are labeled, and MAC is enforced.

Trusted Extensions provides the Security Administrator role with the tools and capabilities to put the organization's security policy into effect. To assume the role, you first log in as an ordinary user, then assume the role. At your site, the security administrator who defines the site's security policy might or might not be the same person who implements the policy.

Types of Labels, Their Components and Uses

Trusted Extensions defines two types of labels:

Sensitivity labels, label ranges, and a label limit or clearance determine who can access what objects on the system. Clearance labels are assigned to users. Sensitivity labels are assigned to processes, including users' processes, and to files and directories.

Some objects have a label range. These objects can be accessed at a particular label within the defined label range. A label range from ADMIN_LOW to ADMIN_HIGH allows access at all labels. The security administrator can narrow that label range. Objects with label ranges include the following:

The various means for setting labels on these objects is described in Oracle Solaris Trusted Extensions Administrator’s Procedures. Device Allocation Manager GUI in Oracle Solaris Trusted Extensions Administrator’s Procedures describes how to set label ranges on devices.

Label Ranges Restrict Access

Label ranges set limits on the following:

Labels are automatically assigned to email messages, and the labels then show on printed emails.

Labels Are Used in Access Control Decisions

Labels are used to implement and control access on a computer. Labels implement mandatory access control (MAC). With Trusted Extensions, both discretionary access control (DAC) checks and MAC checks must pass before access is allowed to an object. As in the Solaris OS, DAC is based on permission bits and access control lists (ACLs). For more information, see Chapter 6, Controlling Access to Files (Tasks), in System Administration Guide: Security Services.

MAC compares the label of a process that is running an application with the label or the label range of any object that the process tries to access. The labels implement the set of rules that enforce policy. One rule is read down-read equal. This rule applies when a process tries to access an object. The label of the process has to be greater than or equal to the label of the object, as in:

Label[Process] >= Label[Object]

On a system that is configured with Trusted Extensions, files and directories have slightly different access rules from each other and from process objects, network endpoint objects, device objects, and X window objects. In addition, an object can be accessed in three different ways. For each of the three ways that an object can be accessed, a slightly different set of rules applies:

Figure 1–1 shows a system that uses labels to make an access control decision.

Figure 1–1 Comparing the Label of a Text Editor with the Label of a File

The context describes the graphic.

In the preceding figure, a user brings up a text editor in a workspace with the label INTERNAL_USE_ONLY. The system sets the label of the process that is running the text editor to be equal to the label of the current workspace. Therefore, the text editor displays a label of INTERNAL_USE_ONLY. When the text editor attempts to open a file for editing, the label of the process that is running the text editor is compared to the label of the file. When the two labels are equal, access for writing is allowed.

If the label of a file is less than the label of the text editor, the file can be opened for reading only. For example, the INTERNAL_USE_ONLY text editor can open and read a system file at ADMIN_LOW, but the text file cannot be changed. Also, because of the read down requirement, a user cannot see a file whose label is higher than the current working label.

Label Components

Labels and clearances consist of a single classification and zero or more compartment words. The classification portion of a label indicates a relative level of protection. When a label is assigned to an object, the label's classification indicates the sensitivity of the information that is contained in the object. When a clearance is assigned to a user, the classification portion of the clearance label indicates the user's level of trust.

Trusted Extensions supports Common IP Security Option (CIPSO) labels. Each label and clearance label has a classification field that allows 256 values, and a 256-bit compartments field. You cannot use 0 (zero) for a classification, so you can define a total of 255 classifications. For CIPSO labels, 240 compartment bits are available, for a total of 2240 compartment combinations. The components are illustrated in the following figure.

Figure 1–2 CIPSO Label Definition

Illustration shows the classification and compartment
sections of a label.

The ADMIN_HIGH label and the ADMIN_LOW label are administrative labels. These labels define the upper and lower bound of all labels on a system.

Each compartment word has one or more compartment bits assigned. The same compartment bit can be assigned to more than one word.

The textual format of a classification appears similar to the following:


name= TOP SECRET; sname= TS; value= 6;initial compartments= 4-5;

The compartment portion of a label is optional. Compartment words in a label can be used to represent different kinds of groupings, such as work groups, departments, divisions, or geographical areas. Compartment words can also further identify how information should be handled.

When initial compartments are part of the classification definition, then compartments are part of that label.


name= A;         compartments= 0;
name= B;         compartments= 1;
name= CNTRY1;     sname= c1;     compartments= ~4;
name= CNTRY2;   sname= c2;     compartments= ~5;

Possible labels from the preceding classifications and compartments include TS, TS A, TS B, and TS AB. A file with TS A would be available only to individuals who have the TS classification and the A compartment in their clearances. For an illustration, see Figure 1–3.

Label Dominance

When any type of label has a security level that is equal to or greater than the security level of a second label, the first label is said to dominate the second label. This comparison of security levels is based on classifications and compartments in the labels. The classification of the dominant label must be equal to or higher than the classification of the second label. Additionally, the dominant label must include all the compartments in the second label. Two equal labels are said to dominate each other.

By these criteria, TS A dominates TS, and TS dominates TS. The classification and compartment bits of the TS label are shown in the following figure.

Figure 1–3 Representation of the TS, TS A, TS B, and TS AB Labels

Illustration shows the classification and compartment
sections of the TS labels.

Another kind of dominance, strict dominance, is sometimes required for access. One label strictly dominates another label when the first label has a security level that is greater than the security level of the other label. Strict dominance is dominance without equality. The classification of the first label is higher than the classification of the second label. The first label contains all the compartments in the second label. Or, if the classifications of both labels are the same, the first label contains all the compartments in the second label plus one or more additional compartments.

Labels that are not in a dominance relationship are said to be disjoint. Disjoint labels would be appropriate to separate departments at a company. For example, the label TS HR (Human Resources) would be disjoint from TS Sales.

Accreditation Ranges, Label Ranges, and Valid Labels

Certain combinations of label components can be disqualified by rules in the label_encodings file. Combination rules implicitly define the organization's usable labels. The security administrator is responsible for specifying combination rules.

A valid or well-formed label is a label that satisfies a combination rule. The security administrator defines combination rules by using one of the following means:

Two accreditation ranges are implicitly specified in the label_encodings file:

The term accreditation range is also used for the label ranges that are assigned to user and role accounts, printers, hosts, networks, and other objects. Because rules can constrain the set of valid labels, label ranges and accreditation ranges might not include all the potential combinations of label components in a range.

System Accreditation Range

The system accreditation range includes the administrative labels ADMIN_HIGH and ADMIN_LOW. The system accreditation range also includes all the well-formed labels that are constructed from the label components in the label_encodings file.

Administrative role accounts are usually the only accounts that can work at every label within the system accreditation range. An organization can also set up ordinary user accounts to be able to perform a task that requires an administrative label.

The following figure presents an example of how rules can constrain the labels permitted in a system accreditation range.

Figure 1–4 How System Accreditation Range Is Constrained By Rules

Illustration shows that the number of potential combinations
of classifications is greater than the number permitted by the rules.

Figure 1–4 (a) shows all potential combinations given the classifications, TS (TOP SECRET), S (SECRET), and C (CONFIDENTIAL), and the compartments, A and B.

Figure 1–4 (b) shows a typical rule from the REQUIRED COMBINATIONS subsection of the SENSITIVITY LABELS section and its effects. The arrows point to the labels that are disqualified by the rule. Disqualified labels appear with lines through the labels. The REQUIRED COMBINATIONS syntax B A means that any label that has B as a compartment must also contain A. The converse is not true. Compartment A is not required to be combined with any other compartments. Since compartment B is only permitted when A is also present, the labels TS B, S B, and C B are not well-formed. Labels that are not well-formed are not in the system accreditation range.

User Accreditation Range

The user accreditation range is the largest set of labels that ordinary users can access when using Trusted Extensions. The user accreditation range always excludes ADMIN_HIGH and ADMIN_LOW. The user accreditation range is further constrained by any rules that constrain the System Accreditation Range. In addition, the user accreditation range can be constrained by a set of rules in the ACCREDITATION RANGE section. Figure 1–5 continues the Figure 1–4 example. Figure 1–5 shows three different types of rules in the ACCREDITATION RANGE section and their effects on the user accreditation range. The arrows point to the well-formed labels that the particular rule permits.

Figure 1–5 ACCREDITATION RANGE Portion of label_encodings File

The context describes the graphic.

As shown in the box to the right, the user accreditation range excludes ADMIN_HIGH and ADMIN_LOW. The rule for the TS classification includes all TS combinations except TS B. However, because TS B, and S B and C B, were previously overruled by the REQUIRED COMBINATIONS rule B A, as shown in Figure 1–4, TS A B, TS A, and TS are the only allowed TS combinations. Because S A B is defined as the only valid combination for the S classification, S B is excluded again. All C combinations except C A are valid according the rule for the C classification. However, because C B was overruled earlier, the only permitted combinations for the C classification are C A B and C.

Account Label Range

The account label range is the range of labels that is available to an individual user or to a role account. This range governs the labels at which the user can work when logging in to the system.

The labels that are available in the account label range have the following constraints:

Example 1–1 Defining a Valid Clearance That Is Not a Valid Label

For example, a label_encodings file could prohibit the combination of compartments A, B, and C in a label.

Account Label Range Examples

The possible clearances and minimum labels that can be assigned to an account are shown in the following figure. These labels are based on the accreditation examples from the previous sections.

Figure 1–6 Constraints on Account Label Ranges

The context describes the graphic.

In this example, TS A B is the highest label in the user accreditation range. This label contains the only two compartments, A and B, that are permitted to appear together in a label with any classification. The account range that is illustrated on the left is bounded at the top by TS A B. TS A B is the clearance assigned to the account. C is the account's minimum label. These definitions constrain the account to work at labels TS A B, TS A, TS, S A B, C A B, or C. The permitted clearances are TS A B, TS A, TS and S A B. A minimum clearance of S A B is set in the label_encodings file.

Even if TS A B was not a valid label, the security administrator could assign the label as a clearance. The assignment would allow the account to use any valid labels that are dominated by TS and that contain the words A and B. In contrast, if TS was assigned as the account clearance, the user could work at the labels TS and C only. TS without any compartments does not dominate S A B or C A B.

Table 1–1 Accreditation Range and Account Label Range Examples


Accreditation Range 

Account Label Range 

Possible Labels 



TS A B Clearance, S A B Min Label

TS Clearance, C Min Label

ADMIN_LOW Clearance and Min Label, solaris.label.range Authorization



































































Table 1–1 illustrates the differences between the potential label combinations, the system accreditation range, the user accreditation range, and some sample account label ranges.

Session Range

The session range is the set of labels that is available to a user account during a Trusted Extensions session. The session range is a function of the following constraints:

The session range of a single-label account is the label of the account. A range of labels to choose from is possible only when a user account is configured to use multiple labels. User accounts that are configured to use multiple labels can choose different labels during the session. To specify a label, see How to Change the Label of a Workspace in Oracle Solaris Trusted Extensions User’s Guide.

The single label or session clearance that is chosen at login is in effect throughout the session until logout. During a multilabel session, the user can work at any valid label that is dominated by the session clearance and that dominates the user's minimum label.

Example Figure 1–6 is continued in Figure 1–7. In this example, the user can specify a session clearance that uses any well-formed label between TS A B and S A B.

The (a) portion of Figure 1–7 shows the labels that are available if the user selects a multilabel session with a session clearance of S A B. Because the other intermediate labels between S A B and C are not well-formed, the user can only work at S A B, C A B, or C.

The (b) portion of Figure 1–7 shows the labels that are available if the user selects a single-label session with a session label of C A B. Note that C A B is below the minimum clearance. However, C A B is accessible because the user is selecting a session label, not a clearance. Because the session is single-label, the user can work at only one label. In this example, the user specified C A B, although S A B or C could have been chosen instead.

Figure 1–7 Comparison of Session Ranges

The context describes the graphic.

The following figure summarizes the progressive eliminations of available labels in this example. The eliminated labels are shown with a line through them in the range where they are filtered out. The filtered out labels are not shown in subsequent ranges.

Figure 1–8 Cumulative Effect of Constraints on a Session Range

The context describes the graphic.

Label Availability in Trusted Extensions Sessions

The following table shows session label limitations and availability based on users' session choices. The table continues the example from Figure 1–8.

Table 1–2 Labels in Trusted Extensions Sessions


Multilevel Session 

Single-level Session 


General Case 

Example #1 

General Case 

Example #2 



Multilevel with clearance of SECRET A B


Single-level with session label of SECRET A B

Initial Workspace Label (at first login) 

Lowest label in account label range. 


Session label is specified by user 


Available Workspace Labels 

Any label in account label range up to the session clearance 




Session label is specified by user 


In Example #1, the initial workspace label is set to CONFIDENTIAL, which is the label at the bottom of the user's account label range. The user can work at a label of CONFIDENTIAL, CONFIDENTIAL A B, or SECRET A B.

In Example #2, the user's initial workspace label is SECRET A B. Since the session is single-level, the only available workspace label is SECRET A B.

Labeled Workspaces

Labeled workspaces enable users to work at multiple labels during a single session.

If the user selects a range of labels for the session, the first workspace that comes up is at the user's minimum label. In CDE, buttons for three additional workspaces are created at the same minimum label in the workspace switch portion of the Front Panel.

Figure 1–9 Workspace Switch Area

The window shows the Workspace menu, the Trusted Path
menu, and the Workspace Switch area on the Front Panel.

For details on working in a labeled system, see Oracle Solaris Trusted Extensions User’s Guide.

Administering Labels

Several aspects about how labels appear to users can be configured. Label visibility, label color, and labels on printed output can be configured. Some actions on labels require authorization or privilege. Upgrading or downgrading an object's label requires an authorization. Manipulating a label between its internal and its textual representation can require a privilege.

Label Visibility

As described in Labeled Workspaces, labels appear on windows on the desktop. On a single-label system, you might not want labels to be visible. Label visibility is configurable in the policy.conf file for a system for individual users. For a pointer to the configuration procedures, see Managing Label Encodings (Task Map).

Typically, the content of files at a lower label can be read by a user at a higher label. For example, system files and commonly-available executables are assigned an ADMIN_LOW label. According to the read down-read equal rule, accounts who work at any label can read ADMIN_LOW files. As in the Solaris OS, DAC permissions can prevent read access. Zones also protect files from being read. If a lower-level zone is not mounted, a user in a higher-level zone cannot access the files for reading.

Files that contain data that should not be viewed by ordinary users, such as system log files and the label_encodings files, are maintained at ADMIN_HIGH. To allow administrators access to protected system files, the ADMIN_LOW and ADMIN_HIGH administrative labels are assigned as the minimum label and clearance for roles.

Labels on Printed Output

The labels that are printed on banner, trailer and body pages of print jobs can be customized. Also, accompanying text that appears on the banner and trailer pages can be customized. For more information, see Chapter 4, Labeling Printer Output (Tasks).

Authorizations for Relabeling Information

The authorization to upgrade information to a label that dominates the label of the current information is called the Upgrade File Label authorization. The authorization to downgrade information to a label that is lower than the the label of the current information is called the Downgrade File Label authorization. For definitions for these authorizations, see /etc/security/auth_attr.

Privileges for Translating Labels

Label translation occurs whenever programs manipulate labels. Labels are translated to and from the textual strings to the internal representation. For example, when a program such as getlabel gets the label of a file, before the label can display to the user, the internal representation of the label is translated into readable output. When the setlabel program sets a label specified on the command line, the textual string, that is, the label's name, is translated into the label's internal representation. Trusted Extensions permits label translations only if the calling process's label dominates the label that is to be translated. If a process attempts to translate a label that the process's label does not dominate, the translation is disallowed. The sys_trans_label privilege is required to override this restriction.