Directory and file management

What is security?

Security for a computing system means that the information on the system is protected from unauthorized disclosure or modification. If each user had a personal non-networked computing system that was kept locked up, each user's files would be secure. But isolation and physical security are not practical in most circumstances.

On a computer system that many people share, the simplest security mechanism would be to allow only the owner of a file to access that file. That would be inconvenient, however, since one of the benefits of a computer system is the sharing of resources. For example, it would be wasteful for each user to have a private copy of each command. Commands are usually shared, but users often want to restrict access to the contents of data files.

On a secure system, each user has a unique identity and a level of authorization associated with that identity. For security to work, the computer system must have some way of identifying users, their level of authorization, and their files. For the most part, while you are logged in, all data you enter, create, and process belongs to you. Data is stored in named files on the computer system. Each file you own is kept separate from the rest of your files and from the files belonging to other users.

As a programmer, you are also concerned with the impact of security on users who run your programs.

A secure computer system must have a mechanism that makes access decisions, that is, one that decides who can access what, based upon user identity and authorization.

There are many ways in which the security of a computer system can be violated. Unauthorized access to read or write files can be the result of:

Most computer systems provide some degree of basic security.

Next topic: How basic security works
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