Adaptable, model-driven security engineering for SaaS cloud-based applications

Mohamed Almorsy, John Grundy, Amani S. Ibrahim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Software-as-a-service (SaaS) multi-tenancy in cloud-based applications helps service providers to save cost, improve resource utilization, and reduce service customization and maintenance time. This is achieved by sharing of resources and service instances among multiple "tenants" of the cloud-hosted application. However, supporting multi-tenancy adds more complexity to SaaS applications required capabilities. Security is one of these key requirements that must be addressed when engineering multi-tenant SaaS applications. The sharing of resources among tenants - i.e. multi-tenancy - increases tenants' concerns about the security of their cloud-hosted assets. Compounding this, existing traditional security engineering approaches do not fit well with the multi-tenancy application model where tenants and their security requirements often emerge after the applications and services were first developed. The resultant applications do not usually support diverse security capabilities based on different tenants' needs, some of which may change at run-time i.e. after cloud application deployment. We introduce a novel model-driven security engineering approach for multi-tenant, cloud-hosted SaaS applications. Our approach is based on externalizing security from the underlying SaaS application, allowing both application/service and security to evolve at runtime. Multiple security sets can be enforced on the same application instance based on different tenants' security requirements. We use abstract models to capture service provider and multiple tenants' security requirements and then generate security integration and configurations at runtime. We use dependency injection and dynamic weaving via Aspect-Oriented Programming (AOP) to integrate security within critical application/service entities at runtime. We explain our approach, architecture and implementation details, discuss a usage example, and present an evaluation of our approach on a set of open source web applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-224
Number of pages38
JournalAutomated Software Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive-security
  • Model-driven engineering
  • Security engineering
  • Software-as-a-service
  • Tenant-oriented security

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