Content-Based Isolation: Rethinking Isolation Policy in Modern Client Systems

  • Alex Moshchuk ,
  • Helen Wang ,
  • Yunxin Liu

MSR-TR-2012-82 |

Modern client platforms, such as iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and Windows 8, have progressed from a per-user isolation policy, where users are isolated, but a user’s applications run in the same isolation container, to an application isolation policy, where different applications are isolated from one another. However, this is not enough because mutually distrusting content can interfere with one another inside a single application. For example, an attacker-crafted image may compromise a photo editor application and steal all images processed by the editor.

In this paper, we advocate a content-based principal model in which the OS treats content owners as its principals and isolates content of different owners from one another. Our key contribution is to generalize the content-based principal model from web browsers, namely, the same-origin policy, into an isolation policy that is suitable for all applications. The key challenge we faced is to support flexible isolation granularities while remaining compatible with the web. In this paper, we present the design, implementation, and evaluation of our prototype system that tackles the challenge.