What Is Access Control? A Key Component Of Data Security

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Who should be able to access a company’s data? Under what circumstances do organisations deny access to a user with access privileges? To adequately protect data, an organisation’s access control policy must solve the issues presented by these questions. It is critical to understand the basics of access control – what it is, why it’s needed, which organisations require it the most, and the challenges it poses.

Access control is the process of identifying and then subsequently granting access to individuals trying to access an organisation’s data. At an advanced level, access control is a selective restriction to information. There are two main components – authentication and authorisation.

Authentication is a technique used to confirm an individuals identity; however, one could argue that this isn’t sufficient by itself to protect data. What is needed is another layer of authorisation that controls whether a user should be allowed to access the information or continue with the transaction they are attempting.

Business organisations across the world have accepted the importance of securing data, but the proper enforcement of access control systems is still raising doubts among businesses. After all, nowadays we all work in hybrid environments – where data is not restricted to specific servers or devices. People access data through in-office servers that move to homes, hotels, cars, and coffee shops. This makes enforcing efficient access control systems tedious and cumbersome. Such diversity makes it a substantial challenge to create and sustain efficient systems. Enterprises must keep in mind that access control technologies are supported through their cloud assets and applications, which will help ensure their smooth integration in virtual environments such as private clouds.

Four Types of Access Control 

DAC (Discretionary Access Control)

 Discretionary Access Control is the function of assigning access rights based on the owner’s discretion. With DAC models, the data owner can individually decide who has access rights.

MAC (Mandatory Access Control) 

As opposed to DAC, Mandatory Access Control was designed using a non-discretionary model, in which individuals are granted access rights based on conditions and rules specified by the developer.

RBAC (Role-Based Access Control)

Role-Based Access Control systems grant access based on the user’s role or designation. Key security principles are implemented, such as ‘least privilege’ and ‘separation of privilege.’ This ensures that whoever can access to data can only view information relevant for their role in an organisation.

ABAC (Attribute-Based Access Control) 

In Attribute-Based Access Control, a detailed comparative assessment is carried out, where a user’s attributes – such as time, date, and location – are used to assess the legitimacy of the user.

Today, most organisations are adept at authentication. This has been aided by the advent of technology and automation in the form of multi-factor authentication and biometric signatures. Authorisation is still an area organisations are yet to gain a strong foothold on. This makes it demanding and taxing to create and then perpetually monitor who is getting access to what data, at which location, and to what extent. The criticality of these systems simply cannot be understated. The applications vary from acting as effective cybersecurity solutions for corporate organisations to a security measure for a smart building.


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