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Recent Posts

  • Comparing Labels and Lattice

    Comparing Labels and Lattice

    Access control ensures that only authenticated and authorized entities can access resources. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of implementing identity and access management controls. This includes an access …
  • Neighbor Spoofing & Vishing

    Neighbor Spoofing & Vishing

    Criminals have increasingly used neighbor spoofing when launching vishing attacks. This apparently became popular in 2018 and has been steadily increasing. Vishing is a a type of phishing attack using phones. Phone spoofing is when a caller changes the number …
  • Encrypting & Decrypting Email

    Encrypting & Decrypting Email

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of the basic concepts of cryptography. This includes ensuring confidentiality of email by encrypting and decrypting email contents. For example, can you answer …
  • Understanding Cryptography Algorithms

    Understanding Cryptography Algorithms

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a good understanding of cryptography algorithms and their basic characteristics. This includes symmetric algorithms like AES, DES, 3DES, RC4, Blowfish/Twofish. For example, can you answer this …
  • HTTPS Transport Encryption

    HTTPS Transport Encryption

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a good understanding of basic cryptography concepts. This includes transport encryption methods used with HTTPS. For example, can you answer this question? Q. Network administrators in …
  • Comparing Command-Line Tools

    Comparing Command-Line Tools

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 exam, you should have a basic understanding of available software tools to assess the security posture of an organization. This includes using security tools such as protocol analyzers, command-line tools, logs, and audits. …
  • Common Password Attacks

    Common Password Attacks

    If you’re planning to take the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of cryptographic attacks. This includes common password attacks that attempt to discover or bypass passwords used for authentication on systems and networks, and for different types …
  • Web Application Attacks

    Web Application Attacks

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should understand many of the common attacks included web application attacks on servers. For example, can you answer this  question? Q. Looking at logs for an online web …
  • Comparing IPSs and IDSs

    Comparing IPSs and IDSs

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 exam, you should have a basic understanding of some of the more advanced network security concepts. This includes intrusion detection systems (IDSs) and intrusion prevention systems (IPSs). For example, can you answer this …
  • Is Your Computer Spying On You?

    Is Your Computer Spying On You?

    Is your computer spying on you? If it has a webcam, you may be surprised at easy it is to remotely enable it and have it send pictures. Years ago, I saw a news segment where a reporter showed how …
  • Implementing Zones and Topologies

    Implementing Zones and Topologies

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of secure network architecture concepts. These include implementation of different zones and topologies. For example, can you answer this  question? Q. Your organization …
  • Identifying Authentication Factor

    Identifying Authentication Factor

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 exam, you should have a good understanding of identity and access management concepts. This includes authentication factors such as the something you are authentication factor that uses biometrics for authentication. For example, can …
  • Understanding Commands

    Understanding Commands

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 exam, you should have a good understanding of command-line tools.  These include some relevant commands that you can run on your primary computer or within a virtual machine. For example, can you answer …
  • Cryptography & Encryption 

    Cryptography & Encryption 

    Cryptography provides two primary security methods you can use with email: digital signatures and encryption. These are separate processes, but you can digitally sign and encrypt the same email. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 exam, you should have a …
  • An Easy Way to Learn Linux

    An Easy Way to Learn Linux

    Do you want to learn Linux? It may be easier than you think. I’ve wanted to learn Linux and get the Linux+ certification for a while now, but I don’t have a Linux system. Knowing that I’m a kinesthetic learner, …

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CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide

Comparing Labels and Lattice

Posted by on January 19 in Security+ | 0 comments

Access control ensures that only authenticated and authorized entities can access resources. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of implementing identity and access management controls. This includes an access control  model that uses labels (sometimes referred to as sensitivity labels or security labels) to determine access.

For example, can you answer this  question?

Q. A security administrator needs to implement an access control system that will protect data based on the following matrix.

Document TypeSecurity LevelSecurity Label
Employment documentsPrivateEmployee
Salary and compensation documentsPrivatePayroll
Internal phone listing documentsPrivateEmployee

(Note that this matrix only represents a subset of the overall requirements.) Which of the following models is the administrator implementing?

A. DAC

B. MAC

C. Role-BAC

D. ABAC

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation are available at the end of this post.

Mandatory Access Control

The mandatory access control (MAC) model uses labels (sometimes referred to as sensitivity labels or security labels) to determine access. Security administrators assign labels to both subjects (users) and objects (files or folders). When the labels match, the system can grant a subject access to an object. When the labels don’t match, the access model blocks access.

Military units make wide use of this model to protect data. You might have seen movies where they show a folder with a big red and black cover page labeled “Top Secret.” The cover page identifies the sensitivity label for the data contained within the folder. Users with a Top Secret label (a Top Secret clearance) and a need to know can access the data within the Top Secret folder.

Need to know is an important concept to understand. Just because individuals have a Top Secret clearance doesn’t mean they should automatically have access to all Top Secret data. Instead, access is restricted based on a need to know.

Security-enhanced Linux (SELinux) is one of the few operating systems using the mandatory access control model. SELinux was specifically created to demonstrate how mandatory access controls can be added to an operating system. In contrast, Windows operating systems use the discretionary access control model.

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Each of the eleven chapters presents topics in an easy to understand manner and includes real-world examples of security principles in action.

You’ll understand the important and relevant security topics for the Security+ exam, without being overloaded with unnecessary details. Additionally, each chapter includes a comprehensive review section to help you focus on what’s important.



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If you plan to pursue any of the advanced security certifications, this guide will also help you lay a solid foundation of security knowledge. Learn this material, and you’ll be a step ahead for other exams. This SY0-501 study guide is for any IT or security professional interested in advancing in their field, and a must-read for anyone striving to master the basics of IT security.

Kindle edition also available.

Labels and Lattice

The MAC model uses different levels of security to classify both the users and the data. These levels are defined in a lattice. The lattice can be a complex relationship between different ordered sets of labels. These labels define the boundaries for the security levels.

The figure shows how the MAC model uses a lattice to divide access into separate compartments based on a need to know. The lattice starts by defining different levels of Top Secret, Secret, Confidential, and For Official Use. Each of these labels defines specific security boundaries. Within these levels, the lattice defines specific compartments. For example, the Top Secret level includes compartments labeled Nuclear Power Plant, 007, and Happy Sumo.

Comparing Labels and Lattice

MAC model lattice

Imagine that Homer has a Top Secret clearance with a Nuclear Power Plant label. This gives him access to data within the Nuclear Power Plant compartment. However, he does not have access to data in the 007 or Happy Sumo compartment unless he also has those clearances (and associated labels).

Higher-level clearances include lower-level clearances. For example, because Homer has a Top Secret clearance, he can be granted access to Secret and lower-level data. Again though, he will only be able to access data on these lower levels based on his need to know.

As another example, imagine that Lisa has a Secret level clearance. Administrators can grant her access to data on the Secret level and lower levels, based on her need to know. For example, they might grant her access to the Research data by assigning the Research label to her, but not necessarily grant her access to Three-eyed Fish or Legal Issues data. However, they cannot grant her access to any data on the Top Secret level.

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CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide

  • Introduction
  • About the exam (including information on the number of questions, test duration, passing score, types of questions and more. Also includes a listing of the exam objectives)
  • 75 question pre-assessment exam
  • Mastering Security Basics (full content from Chapter 1 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Identity and Access Management (full content from Chapter 2 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Network Technologies and Tools (full content from Chapter 3 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Your Network (full content from Chapter 4 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Hosts and Data (full content from Chapter 5 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Comparing Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Common Attacks (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Protecting Against Advanced Attacks (full content from Chapter 7 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Using Risk Management Tools (full content from Chapter 8 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Controls to Protect Assets (full content from Chapter 9 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Cryptography and PKI (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Policies to Mitigate Risks (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • 75 question post-assessment exam
  • Glossary

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Establishing Access

An administrator is responsible for establishing access, but only someone at a higher authority can define the access for subjects and objects. Typically, a security professional identifies the specific access individuals are authorized to access. This person can also upgrade or downgrade the individuals’ access, when necessary. Note that the security professional does all this via paperwork and does not assign the rights and permissions on computer systems. Instead, the administrator assigns the rights based on the direction of the security professional.

Multiple approval levels are usually involved in the decision-making process to determine what a user can access. For example, in the military an officer working in the security professional role would coordinate with higher-level government entities to upgrade or downgrade clearances. These higher-level entities approve or disapprove clearance requests.

Once an individual is formally granted access, a network administrator would be responsible for establishing access based on the clearances identified by the security professional. From the IT administrator’s point of view, all the permissions and access privileges are predefined.

If someone needed different access, the administrator would forward the request to the security professional, who may approve or disapprove the request. On the other hand, the security professional may forward the request to higher entities based on established procedures. This process takes time and results in limited flexibility.


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Q. A security administrator needs to implement an access control system that will protect data based on the following matrix.

Document TypeSecurity LevelSecurity Label
Employment documentsPrivateEmployee
Salary and compensation documentsPrivatePayroll
Internal phone listing documentsPrivateEmployee

(Note that this matrix only represents a subset of the overall requirements.) Which of the following models is the administrator implementing?

A. DAC

B. MAC

C. Role-BAC

D. ABAC

Answer is B. This is a mandatory access control (MAC) model. You can tell because it is using security labels. None of the other models listed use labels.

A discretionary access control (DAC) model has an owner, and the owner establishes access for the objects.

A role-based access control (role-BAC) model uses roles or groups to assign rights and permissions.

An attribute-based access control (ABAC) model uses attributes assigned to subjects and objects within a policy to grant access.

See Chapter 2 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide for more information on access control models.

CompTIA Security+ Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide

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