BrowserFlow: Imprecise Data Flow Tracking to Prevent Accidental Data Disclosure

With the use of external cloud services such as Google Docs or Evernote in an enterprise setting, the loss of control over sensitive data becomes a major concern for organisations. It is typical for regular users to violate data disclosure policies accidentally, e.g. when sharing text between documents in browser tabs. Our goal is to help such users comply with data disclosure policies: we want to alert them about potentially unauthorised data disclosure from trusted to untrusted cloud services. This is particularly challenging when users can modify data in arbitrary ways, they employ multiple cloud services, and cloud services cannot be changed.

To track the propagation of text data robustly across cloud services, we introduce imprecise data flow tracking, which identifies data flows implicitly by detecting and quantifying the similarity between text fragments. To reason about violations of data disclosure policies, we describe a new text disclosure model that, based on similarity, associates text fragments in web browsers with security tags and identifies unauthorised data flows to untrusted services. We demonstrate the applicability of imprecise data tracking through BrowserFlow, a browser-based middleware that alerts users when they expose potentially sensitive text to an untrusted cloud service. Our experiments show that BrowserFlow can robustly track data flows and manage security tags for many documents with no noticeable performance impact.

ACM/IFIP/USENIX International Conference on Middleware (Middleware)
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