The bi-objective workflow satisfiability problem and workflow resiliency

Jason Crampton, Gregory Gutin, Daniil Karapetyan, Remi Watrigant

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A computerized workflow management system may enforce a security policy, specified in terms of authorized actions and constraints, thereby restricting which users can perform particular steps in a workflow. The existence of a security policy may mean that a workflow is unsatisfiable, in the sense that it is impossible to find a valid plan (an assignment of steps to authorized users such that all constraints are satisfied). Work in the literature focuses on the workflow satisfiability problem, a decision problem that outputs a valid plan if the instance is satisfiable (and a negative result otherwise). In this paper, we introduce the Bi-Objective Workflow Satisfiability Problem (BO-WSP), which enables us to solve optimization problems related to workflows and security policies. In particular, we are able to compute a “least bad” plan when some components of the security policy may be violated. In general, BO-WSP is intractable from both the classical and parameterized complexity point of view (where the parameter is the number of steps). We prove that computing a Pareto front for BO-WSP is fixed-parameter tractable (FPT) if we restrict our attention to user-independent constraints. This result has important practical consequences, since most constraints of practical interest in the literature are user-independent. Our proof is constructive and defines an algorithm, the implementation of which we describe and evaluate. We also present a second algorithm to compute a Pareto front which solves multiples instances of a related problem using mixed integer programming (MIP). We compare the performance of both our algorithms on synthetic instances, and show that the FPT algorithm outperforms the MIP-based one by several orders of magnitude on most instances. Finally, we study the important question of workflow resiliency and prove new results establishing that known decision problems are fixed-parameter tractable when restricted to user-independent constraints. We then propose a new way of modeling the availability of users and demonstrate that many questions related to resiliency in the context of this new model may be reduced to instances of BO-WSP.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-115
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Computer Security
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2017

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