Automated Coverage-Based Testing of XACML Policies

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



While the standard language XACML is very expressive for specifying fine-grained access control policies, defects can get into XACML policies for various reasons, such as misunderstanding of access control requirements, omissions, and coding errors. These defects may result in unauthorized accesses, escalation of privileges, and denial of service. Therefore, quality assurance of XACML policies for real-world information systems has become an important issue. To address this issue, this paper presents a family of coverage criteria for XACML policies, such as rule coverage, rule pair coverage, decision coverage, and Modified Condition/Decision Coverage (MC/DC). To demonstrate the assurance levels of these coverage criteria, we have developed methods for automatically generating tests, i.e., access requests, to satisfy the coverage criteria using a constraint solver. We have evaluated these methods through mutation analysis of various policies with different levels of complexity. The experiment results have shown that the rule coverage is far from adequate for revealing the majority of defects in XACML policies, and that both MC/DC and decision coverage tests have outperformed the existing methods for testing XACML policies. In particular, MC/DC tests achieve a very high level of quality assurance of XACML policies.