An aspect-oriented approach to designing role-based access control services

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

First Advisor's Name

Yi Deng

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Xudong He

Third Advisor's Name

S. Masoud Sadjadi

Fourth Advisor's Name

Geoffrey Smith

Fifth Advisor's Name

Malek Adjouadi

Date of Defense



Access control (AC) limits access to the resources of a system only to authorized entities. Given that information systems today are increasingly interconnected, AC is extremely important. The implementation of an AC service is a complicated task. Yet the requirements to an AC service vary a lot. Accordingly, the design of an AC service should be flexible and extensible in order to save development effort and time. Unfortunately, with conventional object-oriented techniques, when an extension has not been anticipated at the design time, the modification incurred by the extension is often invasive. Invasive changes destroy design modularity, further deteriorate design extensibility, and even worse, they reduce product reliability.

A concern is crosscutting if it spans multiple object-oriented classes. It was identified that invasive changes were due to the crosscutting nature of most unplanned extensions. To overcome this problem, an aspect-oriented design approach for AC services was proposed, as aspect-oriented techniques could effectively encapsulate crosscutting concerns. The proposed approach was applied to develop an AC framework that supported role-based access control model. In the framework, the core role-based access control mechanism is given in an object- oriented design, while each extension is captured as an aspect. The resulting framework is well-modularized, flexible, and most importantly, supports noninvasive adaptation.

In addition, a process to formalize the aspect-oriented design was described. The purpose is to provide high assurance for AC services. Object-Z was used to specify the static structure and Predicate/Transition net was used to model the dynamic behavior. Object-Z was extended to facilitate specification in an aspect-oriented style. The process of formal modeling helps designers to enhance their understanding of the design, hence to detect problems. Furthermore, the specification can be mathematically verified. This provides confidence that the design is correct. It was illustrated through an example that the model was ready for formal analysis.



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