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Biba Model


The Biba Model (or Biba Integrity Model) was first published in 1975, then revised in 1977, approximately one year after the Bell-LaPadula Model of computer security. Like Bell-LaPadula, the Biba model, named after Kenneth Biba, was developed at the MITRE Corporation as part of the United States Air Force Electronic Systems Division's Secure General Purpose Computer Project. The Bell-LaPadula and Biba models represented two somewhat different conceptualizations of what constituted computer security. The principle concern in computer security research for Department of Defense agencies during the 1970s was of data confidentiality, the prevention of unauthorized subjects (human or software) viewing data above their assigned security classification. This represented the primary concern of the Bell-LaPadula Model, which ensured that a subject could read data of a higher security classification, nor could it write down to data of a lower classification. Agencies outside the military, however, placed less importance on the unauthorized viewing of data than on data becoming corrupted, lost, or changed, particularly without a means of tracking those changes. Business, for example, viewed data integrity as its primary concern in computer security. The Biba Model addresses the concern of data integrity, attempting to ensure that data cannot be altered without authorization. This includes not only malicious alterations, but accidental changes, as well. The Biba model employs a system of integrity labels whose properties follow the counterpoint of Bell-LaPadula, stating that subjects cannot write-up to files of a higher integrity level than their own, nor can they read-down to files of a lower integrity level. According to the Biba model's "Simple Integrity Property," In accordance with the Biba model, subjects must not read-down

First published in 1975, then revised in 1977, Kenneth Biba developed the Biba model as part of a United States Air Force project for MITRE. Also known as the Biba Integrity Model, the Biba Model captures "multi-level integrity policies," to ensure that subjects do not "read-down" to objects that have lower integrity labels. Likewise, subjects are not allowed to "write-up" to objects with higher integrity labels.(1) These access control rules were developed to prevent unauthorized users modifying data, or authorized users modifying unauthorized data. This model focuses upon preserving data integrity, rather than data confidentiality, and was initially developed to address a weakness in the Bell-LaPadula model, which only addressed confidentiality.(2)

Additional Resources:

  • oh411deb.pdf: 2012 CBI oral history with David Bell, with a discussion of the Biba Model.


1 : Karl de Leeuw and Jan Bergstra, eds., The History of Information Security: A Comprehensive Handbook (New York: Elsevier, 2007), 628-629.

2 : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biba_Model

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Topic revision: r7 - 17 May 2013 - 10:38:32 - NicLewis
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