Access control list
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With respect to a computer filesystem, an access control list (ACL) is a list of permissions attached to an object. The list specifies who or what is allowed to access the object and what operations are allowed to be performed on the object. In a typical ACL, each entry in the list specifies a subject and an operation: for example, the entry (Alice, delete) on the ACL for file WXY gives Alice permission to delete file WXY.
ACL-based security models
In an ACL-based security model, when a subject requests to perform an operation on an object, the system first checks the list for an applicable entry in order to decide whether to proceed with the operation. A key issue in the definition of any ACL-based security model is the question of how access control lists are edited. For each object; who can modify the object's ACL and what changes are allowed.
ACL models are assigned to individual objects, or to a collection of objects, and correspond to what may or may not be permitted to "access" the object to which they have been assigned.
File system ACLs
The list is a data structure, usually a table, containing entries that specify individual user or group rights to specific system objects, such as a program, a process, or a file. These entries are known as access control entries (ACEs) in the Microsoft Windows NT, OpenVMS, Unix-like and Mac OS X operating systems. Each accessible object contains an identifier to its ACL. The privileges or permissions determine specific access rights, such as whether a user can read from, write to, or execute an object. In some implementations an ACE can control whether or not a user, or group of users, may alter the ACL on an object.
Most of the Unix-like operating systems - Linux, FreeBSD or Solaris, support so called POSIX.1e ACLs, based on early POSIX draft that was abandoned. Many of them - for example AIX, Mac OS X, beginning with version 10.4 ("Tiger"), or Solaris with ZFS filesystem, support NFSv4 ACLs, which are the part of NFSv4 standard. There are experimental implementations of NFSv4 ACLs for Linux and FreeBSD.
In certain proprietary computer hardware an Access Control List refers to rules that are applied to port numbers. (See service ports) or network daemon names that are available on a host or other layer 3 device, each with a list of hosts and/or networks permitted to use the service. Both individual servers as well as routers can have network ACLs. Access control lists can generally be configured to control both inbound and outbound traffic, and in this context they are similar to firewalls.
This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, which is licensed under the GFDL.
- Standard Access Control List, Cisco-IOS configuration rules
- Role-based access control
- Confused deputy problem
- Capability-based security