Enabling Attribute-Based Access Control in NoSQL Databases

Eeshan Gupta, Shamik Sural, Jaideep Vaidya, Vijayalakshmi Atluri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


NoSQL databases are being increasingly used for efficient management of high volumes of unstructured data in applications like information retrieval, natural language processing, social computing, etc. However, unlike traditional databases, data protection measures such as access control for these databases are still in their infancy, which could lead to significant vulnerabilities and security/privacy issues as their adoption increases. Attribute-based Access Control (ABAC), which provides a flexible and dynamic solution to access control, can be effective for mediating accesses in typical usage scenarios for NoSQL databases. In this paper, we propose a novel methodology for enabling ABAC in NoSQL databases. Specifically we consider MongoDB, which is one of the most popular NoSQL databases in use today. We present an approach to both specify ABAC access control policies and to enforce them when an actual access request has been made. MongoDB Wire Protocol is used for extracting and processing appropriate information from the requests. We also present a method for supporting dynamic access decisions using environmental attributes and handling of ad-hoc access requests through digitally signed user attributes. Results from an extensive set of experiments on the Enron corpus as well as on synthetically generated data demonstrate the scalability of our approach. Finally, we provide details of our implementation on MongoDB and share a Github repository so that any organization can download and deploy the same for enabling ABAC in their own MongoDB installations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)208-223
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Information Systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Attribute-based access control
  • MongoDB
  • NoSQL datastores


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