What Makes a Good Access Control Policy?

Beyond Identity Blog | Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Access control policy refers to a data security technique that prevents unauthorized physical or remote access to company data. This technique aims to minimize the security risks to the physical and logical systems of an organization. 

Physical access control enables organizations to secure their hardware, while logical access control helps protect the software. In addition, logical access control maintains a record of which users are granted access to company data at what time.

The four main types of access control

1. Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

Discretionary Access Control enables data owners and administrators of the protected system to set its policies. The DAC uses the access control lists (ACLs) and capability tables for executing its functions. Using this method, the owner can transfer authenticated information to other users, thereby determining privilege access.

2. Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

A centralized authority regulates the access rights in this security model. MAC is a hierarchical access control method that restricts and grants access based on data sensitivity and information clearance. Using MAC, users themselves cannot change the access control.

3. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Administrators use Role-Based Access Control to grant or restrict access based on organizational roles instead of individual identity. It provides people access to the data necessary for their role in the organization. This access control model is a complex combination of role assignment, authorization, and permissions.

4. Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

This dynamic method of access control gives permissions to users based on their attributes. In other words, if any user wants to access any resource under ABAC, the user is analyzed based on certain attributes like time of day and geolocation.

What could happen if you don’t have an access control policy?

Restricting or limiting the access to sensitive data with an access control policy gives the company total control over its resources. For example, in a data breach, the system automatically detects when, where, and who accessed an otherwise secure asset without authorization. However, if there is an absence of an access control policy it makes the organization vulnerable to various internal or external cyber-attacks. 

For simplicity, we organized the following corporate threats and risks that are associated with absent or insufficient access control policy:

Insider Threats

Insider threats can be difficult to detect since the users already have legitimate access to the system. Without an access control policy in place, these users can widely misuse the IT resources of the company. They can access top-level information, steal data for personal gain, spread malicious code, or initiate attacks.

External Threats

Hackers are always looking for any vulnerability in a system. Hacked passwords remain one of the most common ways to gain unauthorized access and create havoc. Without a rigorous access control policy in place, a hacker who has stolen credentials of someone with higher privileges can go undetected and cause very serious damage to company data. 

Other Business and Financial Risks

Some additional risks include unauthorized disclosure of confidential information resulting in loss of credibility, disruption of service at critical moments, and loss of productivity. Without a proper access control system, organizations can face many legal implications and financial loss due to a cyberattack or data breach.

Qualities of an exemplary access control policy

Authentication, authorization, and evaluation of login credentials are the primary ways for access control policies to ensure that only verified personnel can access company data. Post-authentication, access control grants appropriate levels of permissions and allows only those actions consistent with and permitted by the user level. 

The following are some characteristics of a quality access control policy:

  • The access control policy aligns with the goals of the organization. Therefore, it should support the guiding principles and must be relevant to users
  • Implementation of the policy should always reflect the reality of the working environment 
  • The policy is easily scalable without needing heavy lifting from IT departments to add and remove users from the system and can integrate with existing systems
  • The policy includes collaboration with third parties and other outside vendors
  • The management team fully supports and approves the access control policy, which is flexible enough to support the organizational mission
  • There is continuous risk-based authentication and no device is inherently trusted
  • Numerous factors are taken into consideration when authenticating, such as operating system, location, and number of login attempts
  • The access control policy takes into consideration work-issued devices as well as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and personal equipment
  • Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • There is a way to view who has been granted access when and for what resources to easily identify suspicious behavior

How to pick an access control solution

From access control regulation to approval processes, access control solutions enforce security policies within diverse computing environments. However, threat actors can easily use compromised, but trusted, credentials like usernames and passwords to start malicious attacks across a corporate network, even with access control mechanisms in place.  

Beyond Identity is revolutionizing how users log in and creating secure and frictionless passwordless authentication. By replacing passwords with public-private key pairs, the passwordless platform is changing how organizations have thought about security measures for their data. In addition, solutions from Beyond Identity include device trust, secure remote access, and passwordless MFA

Is your organization seeking to eliminate the possibilities of credential-based security incidents, especially in today’s ransomware-charged environment? Get a demo to experience the next-generation security solution in action.