Security engineering must be integrated with all stages of application specification and development to be effective. Doing this properly is increasingly critical as organisations rush to offload their software services to cloud providers. Service-level agreements (SLAs) with these providers currently focus on performance-oriented parameters, which runs the risk of exacerbating an impedance mismatch with the security middleware. Not only do we want cloud providers to isolate each of their clients from others, we also want to have means to isolate components and users within each client’s application.
We propose a principled approach to designing and deploying end-to-end secure, distributed software by means of thorough, relentless tagging of the security meaning of data, analogous to what is already done for data types. The aim is to guarantee that—above a small trusted code base—data cannot be leaked by buggy or malicious software components. This is crucial for cloud infrastructures, in which the stored data and hosted services all have different owners whose interests are not aligned (and may even be in competition). We have developed data tagging schemes and enforcement techniques that can help form the aforementioned trusted code base. Our big idea—cloud-hosted services that have end-to-end information flow control—preempts worries about security and privacy violations retarding the evolution of large-scale cloud computing.