Access control systems are used to restrict the ability of certain people to gain entry into secured areas. It includes doors, workstations, file rooms, and printers.
Traditional access control relies on locks and keys. While this is true, many businesses use electronic access control solutions to reduce costs and improve security.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) enables an organization to limit access to computer systems and data. It helps prevent data loss and theft and improves network visibility by tracking who accessed what and when.
Among the types of access control, RBAC is a flexible approach to permissioned security that allows IT administrators to set and change user access without interrupting users or disrupting business operations. It also makes it easier for administrators to meet regulatory requirements by providing a framework for controlling access and monitoring network activity.
When implemented correctly, role-based access control reduces the risk of privilege creep by granting a single user the exact access needed for their job. It minimizes the one-off permissions required to manage user access, reducing administrative workload and saving time for IT personnel.
Moreover, RBAC improves security even more by limiting users from having exclusive power to handle specific tasks, such as making and approving purchases or accessing customer files. This principle, known as separation of duties (SoD), is another crucial component of RBAC that can help organizations better protect their sensitive information and comply with regulatory requirements.
Before implementing RBAC, run a needs analysis of your organization’s job functions, business processes, and technologies. It will enable you to identify gaps in your security posture and plan the transition. Ideally, working with your stakeholders to ensure successful implementation would be best.
Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)
Attribute-based access control (ABAC) enables runtime decisions about what features and data a user can access based on policies and user attributes. ABAC evaluates subject and object attributes such as user demographics, resource properties, action, and environmental specifics.
Unlike RBAC, which assigns users to roles with specific permissions, ABAC focuses on access control policies built upon individual attributes, allowing an organization to extend existing functions and use a variety of situational variables when making authorization decisions. For example, a sales rep might only be granted access to sales prospect data during work hours and from an approved device.
ABAC is an ideal solution for organizations that must ensure compliance with regulatory and privacy requirements while ensuring data integrity. It lets policy-makers implement innovative access restrictions that account for context, reducing risks and protecting sensitive information.
In addition, ABAC enables organizations to nimbly onboard new employees and permit external partners without manually changing each subject-object relationship. For example, admins can define policies that give new subjects access to radiology department objects as long as they are allotted the necessary attributes for viewing them.
While a successful ABAC implementation requires significant time and resources, it is a financially sustainable and long-term investment. It also helps protect data integrity, preventing employees from unauthorizedly accessing sensitive information and minimizing the risk of security breaches.
Discretionary Access Control (DAC)
Discretionary Access Control (DAC) systems allow users to determine their data access permissions. It can be helpful when a user needs to set up personalized security policies for each individual.
In a typical DAC system, access permissions for each piece of data are stored in an access control list (ACL). It defines at what level to give a particular user permission to a resource or object.
When a user grants permission to another person, this information is sent to the owner of the data object. Often, this is done automatically by the software.
The owner of the data object can use this information to grant or deny access to a user. Unlike Mandatory Access Control (MAC), the owner has complete control over who can access their data.
However, a DAC system can be less secure than MAC. It is because the administrator only controls some object access, which can lead to mistakes in the permissions given.
RBAC, or non-discretionary access control, allows administrators to give users access based on their organizational roles. It is helpful for organizations with a wide range of positions and employees.
DAC is a less restrictive access control model than MAC and is generally used for computer file systems. Using DAC, subjects can grant other subjects access to their files, change their attributes, alter them, or delete them.
Mandatory Access Control (MAC)
Mandatory Access Control (MAC) systems are primarily used in government offices and military facilities. They use security labels to identify files, documents, and other resources. These labels indicate a classification or clearance level for the object, user, or device. These levels range from Unclassified to Secret and Top Secret.
The administrator assigns these classifications and clearance levels to file objects on a system. When a user or device attempts to access an object, the operating system checks the classification of the thing against that of the user or device and determines if the user or device is authorized for that access.
MAC has the highest level of security available, but it is also the most complex to implement and maintain. It requires detailed planning and much work to keep the classifications for all resource objects and users current.
When new data is added, or old data is removed, the administrator must manually update the security labels for these objects and users. It is a challenging task, requiring a dedicated person to maintain it.
MAC can be used in any organization, but it is most suited for government, military, health care, and other high-security organizations where data must be highly protected from leakage. Discretionary Access Control is a better option for smaller businesses with fewer users but still looking to maintain a high level of security.