Access Control Security Best Practices

Access control security measures ensure only authorized users are able to enter and interact with a network. You wouldn’t want just anyone to be able to view sensitive information on one of your company’s laptops. Alternatively, you may want only certain users or roles within the organization to have access to sensitive information.

There are four different types of access control: DAC, MAC, RBAC, and ABAC. As such, the access control security best practices for your organization depend on the company size, level of security, and any compliance regulations.

Read more: VPNs, Zero Trust Network Access, and the Evolution of Secure Remote Work

Types of Access Control

The types of access control can be broken down into who administers access (DAC and MAC) versus how access is administered (RBAC and ABAC).

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

In DAC, one or more system administrators grant each user a certain level of access according to their role. This method most likely works best for smaller companies that can rely on individuals to regulate access.

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

The government and military often employ MAC. In this method, a central agency gives individuals information clearance based on what they level they are working in. It is non-discretionary, in the sense that one person is not in control of granting each person a certain kind of access. MAC is more centralized and standardized.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

As the name implies, only individuals who play a particular role within an organization will need access to certain data in the RBAC model. For instance, an HR administrator will need different information than the CFO; they will thus have access to different types of data in the network.

Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

In contrast to RBAC, in ABAC the person’s role doesn’t matter as much as a set of criteria, such as their location or work shift. This method pertains most to multinational enterprises, where individuals are accessing information from various parts of the world and at different times.

Applications of Access Control

There are two types of access control applications: data access control and physical access control. Your company will likely need both, unless it completely operates remotely. In that case, your focus will be data access control. Each type of access control employs different forms of entry access: login credentials, badge scanners, biometric technology, or a combination of these.

Cloud-Based Access Control

An organization can store data on a local server (legacy systems), in a cloud, in multiple clouds, or in a mix of physical data storage and cloud storage (hybrid). Most companies these days store their data in hybrid or completely cloud-based environments. Cloud-based storage offers a more secure and convenient way of configuring access control, as it easily integrates with other software.

Cloud-based storage offers a more secure and convenient way of configuring access control.

For example, an on-site system administrator can configure access for users via a cloud access security broker. Within this cloud-based control panel, the system administrator sets who can log into a SaaS application, such as Box or Workday, through single sign-on (SSO).

As mentioned before, login access can take many forms, from entering passwords to scanning fingerprints or badges. The system administrator grants or denies access by adding layers of security between the user’s web browser or desktop app and the SaaS cloud server. The system administrator can permit or deny access to particular URLs or to particular categories, such as job boards or social media.

At a more granular level, the system administrator can allow a user access to a SaaS, but still permit only certain functions to be performed in the SaaS. The user, whether signing in via the installed app or via web browser, will then either be allowed, blocked, or redirected.

Physical Access Control

Allowing only certain people to enter the physical premises is still a prevalent security concern for enterprises with brick-and-mortar locations. A system administrator can grant access to certain users through badges, key fobs, keypads, biometric technology, wireless access control, or mobile access control.

There are many types of biometric technology that are becoming increasingly popular for enterprise access control. These devices store and read biological data, such as fingerprints, retina or iris scans, or facial features. Some methods are more secure and expensive than others. Based on your company’s needs, you’ll have to consider whether biometric technology is worth implementing.

Read more: Is Biometric Technology Worth the Cost?

In wireless access control, the user presents some sort of login credential, such as a PIN. A wireless router communicates between the control panel, the reader, and the barrier to entry — such as a lock, gate, or door.

In mobile access control, the user opens the downloaded mobile app on their mobile device. The app then communicates with the reader to allow physical entry.

Access Control Tips and Best Practices

For data access control, cloud-based is the way to go because it:

  • Is more secure
  • Is convenient
  • Saves money
  • Saves time
  • Keeps everything up-to-date

Convenience is a key benefit with cloud data access control, as your system administrator does not have to be located in any particular physical place to configure data access control. Further, everything will be kept up-to-date because the server automatically backs up information.

For physical entry access control, mobile apps are your best bet because they are:

  • More foolproof
  • More secure
  • Very convenient

Users are likely to lose, forget, or damage their badges or key fobs. You also don’t want to risk those physical objects landing in the wrong hands, and have an unauthorized person enter the property. Your company may also want to consider using biometric technology, but will have to weigh the privacy and ethics concerns of storing and managing users’ biological data.

If confidential or sensitive data gets leaked or hacked, your company could face fines, damage to its reputation, and other negative consequences. This is why access control is so important and prevalent today in enterprises big and small.

Read next: What Does a Next Generation Firewall Do?

Lauren Hansen
Lauren is originally from Chicago and enjoys learning new things. As a former academic, she is experienced in gathering, synthesizing, and disseminating information to others, so they can learn something new and make informed decisions. When she’s not writing, she’s practicing yoga or traveling.

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