Access control systems are significant for your organization and help avoid data breach lawsuits and competitors accessing your company’s secrets. Cyber security is essential in every organization, especially in an era where information and data are kings.
These systems are mainly electronic and facilitate approval of access in an automatic way to save time and human resources. For instance, instead of frisking an employee by security personnel, the latter could swipe a card at an entrance and pass through the security barrier if they have access to the area. Generally, most organizations have security portals, a ‘gate’ signifying the entry point to a restricted area.
Significance of Access Control Systems
The primary role of access control systems is to enhance security by ensuring that employees, their data, and business data are safe from unauthorized access. Every year, most companies use outdated systems that make them vulnerable to security and data breaches. Therefore, you should regularly review your access system to ensure that it is updated and safe from breaches.
Unsecure systems accord intruders the opportunity to steal your data or property. Some may use authorized access to disrupt your work by uploading malware to your system, making you lose valuable business time. A proper system will ensure you avoid such scenarios and focus on generating revenue.
Access control systems also have secondary benefits where you could use their data to make improvements. For instance, you can use the data collected on the usage level of resources to develop informed plans to improve efficiency within the organization.
Types of Access Control Systems
There are three main types of access control systems:
Mandatory Access Control (MAC)
It is a system that governments commonly use, being the strictest among the three. The approach to resource access is hierarchical and best suited for national governance. In this system, the administrator defines access to resources through settings to ensure that it is only granted to authorized personnel.
The administrator configures settings in the operating system to allow verified members to complete their duties.
This system uses labels to grant access to users, making it impossible for them to change the control they possess. The security label has two properties – category and classification. A category could be a department or a project, while classification is high, medium, or low and is aligned with the category or rank of a person in the organization. For instance, a highly ranked person in an organization will have a high classification, while the vice versa is also true.
Both properties should match for a user to access a resource within the system. For instance, a user with a high classification but does not fit a particular category will not gain access to resources within that category.
MAC is a very secure system but is expensive to maintain due to the constant updates required. It also requires good planning, which might be time-consuming if your organization works on a tight schedule.
Examples of MAC Systems
Honeywell’s SCOMP and Purple Penelope, developed by the British and US governments, are examples of MAC systems. Linux Intrusion Detection system is also a MAC system based on object levels and subject clearance.
Window Vista – 8 was also a form of a MAC system that employed Mandatory Integrity Control (MIC). MIC is a variant of a MAC system that adds integrity levels when processing access for a subject. The integrity level (IL) represented the level of trust an object possessed, with a higher level translating to increased access.
As much as the MAC system is secure, it is however expensive and difficult to implement. It is especially challenging when an administrator has to separate interconnected security domains in the system. This is a system you should use in your organization if you have enough time and value confidentiality.
Discretion Access Control (DAC) System
This system controls access by assigning rights based on rules that the users specify. It gives you the mandate to decide who can access your objects. A DAC system operates based on capability cables and access control lists (ACLs). Capability cables have ranks that classify your subjects in rows and objects in columns for easy navigation. The operating system has a security kernel that checks whether a subject has access to an object.
A DAC system dictates the type of access a user has to the program or file. For instance, you might have the authority to view a file but not make changes to it. Take the example of a company, you can only view your data, but only authorized Human Resource personnel can both view and make changes to your file.
In this system, the administrator is less burdened than the MAC model as they are not responsible for setting up all the permissions. It makes DAC easier to manage and consumes less time when setting and maintaining it. Besides, it enhances responsibility in your organization as more people are involved in improving security.
Conversely, the distributed administrative duties compromise the security of data. A user can set up permission incorrectly, leading to breaches of data. Besides, a former member of the organization can intrude on the data and use it to harm operations. The administrator can remedy this by setting groups manageable only by an administrator. Moreover, the administrator should be vigilant and revoke access of users, with immediate effect, who cease to be members of the organization.
Examples of DAC Systems
The Unix file mode is an example of a DAC system as it utilizes the three permissions – read, write and execute. It allows you to create and own an object and give authority to a third party that can perform the three functions mentioned earlier. Another popular DAC system is the Windows file system by Microsoft.
Overall, DAC is easy to implement hence saving you time and revenue. It also restricts authorized users from viewing essential parts of a file making it more secure. Nevertheless, it has higher maintenance costs and is susceptible to Trojan horse attacks.
Role-based Access Control Systems (RBAC)
RBAC assigns access to objects based on a user’s role within your organization. It is efficient and accords individuals access relating to their job. The RBAC consists of three parts: role permissions – the IT department decides the resources each role needs and accords access based on the same. For instance, an accountant will have access to the payment details of employees as they are necessary for executing their role.
Another part is the user-role relationship, which requires a user to have at least one role. In this system, a role is a permission, and lack of one translates to a lack of access. When you lack access, you cannot execute any duty within an organization. The system is seamless and easy to manage as once a role is revoked, so is the permission and the opposite is also true.
The last part is the role-role relationship which combines the different roles an employee has in an organization and assigns access accordingly. For instance, in a global company, a Human Resource manager in Europe is only an employee in Asia and lacks the HR manager’s role outside his jurisdiction. Therefore, when you have combined roles, you only get access to data and information in an area where you have jurisdiction.
There are four variations of this system, which are flat, hierarchical, constrained, and symmetric. You can choose a variation that best suits your organization and implement it.
Some of the things to consider when choosing a variation are standards, separation of duties, and tiers.
Examples of RBAC Systems
Some organizations that use this system are Linux and Windows. In these organizations, individuals have access to files based on their roles. Another general form of this system is organizations only allowing software engineers access to developmental tools.
The upside of this system is its seamless and easy-to-use nature. For instance, when an employee joins your organization, you do not have to give the individual access to different areas and data as it is granted upon role assignment.
However, the system sometimes lacks precision as applications may lack the exactness needed in granting permissions. Therefore, it is imperative to consult an RBAC expert to implement and constantly cross-check the applications to make necessary adjustments.
These access control systems have been used as security protocols in different organizations. Their primary function is to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing a system’s resources. Implementation of any of the systems makes your organization safer from cyber and physical attacks. This safety saves you revenue that could be used to repair damages or in legal suits following the breach of employee and customer data.
All the systems are reliable and secure, making them effective for users. However, their suitability depends on the size or needs of your organization. For instance, DAC is more effective for small organizations because it is cost-effective and easy to implement. On the other hand, if your organization deals with sensitive information, RBAC would be the best suit for you. Lastly, if your organization is highly centralized and values strictness, you should consider using the MAC system.