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Scala Cluster Security Details

Audience: System Administrators

Content Summary: It is most secure to leverage an equalized project when working in a Scala cluster; however, it is not required to limit Scala to equalized projects. This document outlines security recommendations for Scala clusters and discusses the security risks involved when equalized projects are not used.


There are limitations to isolation among users in Scala jobs on a Databricks cluster, even when using Immuta’s SecurityManager. When data is broadcast, cached (spilled to disk), or otherwise saved to SPARK_LOCAL_DIR, it's impossible to distinguish between which user’s data is composed in each file/block. If you are concerned about this vulnerability, Immuta suggests that Scala clusters

  • be limited to Scala jobs only.
  • use project equalization, which forces all users to act under the same set of attributes, groups, and purposes with respect to their data access.

When data is read in Spark using an Immuta policy-enforced plan, the masking and redaction of rows is performed at the leaf level of the physical Spark plan, so a policy such as "Mask using hashing the column social_security_number for everyone" would be implemented as an expression on a project node right above the FileSourceScanExec/LeafExec node at the bottom of the plan. This process prevents raw data from being shuffled in a Spark application and, consequently, from ending up in SPARK_LOCAL_DIR.

This policy implementation coupled with an equalized project guarantees that data being dropped into SPARK_LOCAL_DIR will have policies enforced and that those policies will be homogeneous for all users on the cluster. Since each user will have access to the same data, if they attempt to manually access other users' cached/spilled data, they will only see what they have access to via equalized permissions on the cluster. If project equalization is not turned on, users could dig through that directory and find data from another user with heightened access, which would result in a data leak.

Configuration for Requiring Equalized Projects with Scala

To require that Scala clusters be used in equalized projects and avoid the risk described above, change the immuta.spark.require.equalization value to true in your Immuta configuration file when you spin up Scala clusters:


Once this configuration is complete, users on the cluster will need to switch to an Immuta equalized project before running a job. (Remember that when working under an Immuta Project, only tables within that project can be seen.) Once the first job is run using that equalized project, all subsequent jobs, no matter the user, must also be run under that same equalized project. If you need to change a cluster's project, you must restart the cluster.