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Apiary: Easy-to-use Desktop Application Fault Containment on Commodity Operating Systems

Potter, Shaya; Nieh, Jason

Desktop computers are often compromised by the interaction of untrusted data and buggy software. To address this problem, we present Apiary, a system that provides transparent application fault containment while retaining the ease of use of a traditional integrated desktop environment. Apiary accomplishes this with three key mechanisms. It isolates applications in containers that integrate in a controlled manner at the display and file system. It introduces ephemeral containers that are quickly instantiated for single application execution and then removed, to prevent any exploit that occurs from persisting and to protect user privacy. It introduces the virtual layered file system to make instantiating containers fast and space efficient, and to make managing many containers no more complex than having a single traditional desktop. We have implemented Apiary on Linux without any application or operating system kernel changes. Our results from running real applications, known exploits, and a 24-person user study show that Apiary has modest performance overhead, is effective in limiting the damage from real vulnerabilities to enable quick recovery, and is as easy to use as a traditional desktop while improving desktop computer security and privacy.

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Academic Units
Computer Science
Publisher
Department of Computer Science, Columbia University
Series
Columbia University Computer Science Technical Reports, CUCS-034-09
Published Here
July 16, 2010