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access control

Data access control: A key component of data security

What is data access control?

Data access control is typically described as the protection and restriction of access to sensitive data through the enforcement of access control rights. Although true, it’s only half the story. Dynamic control of access rights can also enable much more effective sharing of data and other business critical assets to enable better collaboration, greater customer interaction, and improved R&D, without risking the loss of data.

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The need for data access control

The need for effective data access management has never been greater. Stricter regulations governing Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and export controls, the growing amount of sensitive IoT data being stored by enterprises, and the need for organizations to better protect Intellectual Property (IP), all point to the requirement for improved access controls. Again, this is the protection side of the coin. And it’s often why enterprises turn to static controls – but protection can mean data lockdown. Then assets become costly to secure without delivering their true value. This can only be delivered through data sharing which must be done securely and at run-time.

The fast pace of digitalization has also driven the changing needs of data access control. The move to the cloud, for example, has put constraints on static authorization that didn’t exist when they were conceived. These legacy authorization methods cannot be applied to modern IT architectures.

How does access control work?

The way access control works will depend on the type of data access control method you choose, whether it’s static or dynamic, and fine-grained or coarse-grained. There are four main methods. Two are considered obsolete for managing sensitive data in today’s modern and complex IT environments – Discretionary Access Control (DAC) and Mandatory Access Control (MAC). The legacy method, Role Based Access Control (RBAC), remains effective when data access control requirements are not highly complex. And finally, Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC), which is the modern dynamic way to control access to critical assets such as data.

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

In DAC, the owner of the data is also the assigner of the access rights, which is based on rules as specified by users. You can think of it as a basic Teams group that somebody sets up for multiple users.

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

MAC, on the other hand, applies a nondiscretionary model. Information clearance is the guiding force for determining who or what systems should be granted access, i.e. do they have access to level one, two or three data assets.

Role Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC provides access based on a role allocated to a user or users. A user may have the role of accountant and clerk, for instance, and be able to see two sets of data. Complications occur in large organizations when many users have many roles, which can lead to conflicts of interest and toxic combinations.

Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC)

ABAC implements business policies to enforce data access controls from a central server. Attributes such as the location of the user, the device being used, the time of day, and the user’s role, must all be aligned with a policy or regulation in order for access to be granted.

Data access control systems and solutions for your organization

If you’re unsure which access control system will best meet your needs, our team of experts can help you find an ABAC solution to:

How to choose the right access control solution

No matter where your sensitive data is stored or how complex or distributed your architecture is, we can help you safeguard and securely share sensitive data. Our experts can define requirements and tailor the Attribute Based Access Control products from our dynamic authorization suite to meet your needs.

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