Access controls are a critical component of Information Security and Identity Access Management (IAM) in organizations. They serve as mechanisms to restrict access to data and system resources, ensuring that only authorized entities can access them. However, implementing effective access controls can pose several challenges for organizations, and these challenges often include onboarding, offboarding, and departmental changes for provisioning.
Traditionally, granting or revoking access to IT systems requires a Security Administrator to enter information into an application. This method is inefficient and doesn't scale as organizations grow. Furthermore, this approach is not ideal for security or preserving privacy - as all administrators of a database have access to all its information. Consider a patient submitting a health insurance claim. A claims examiner needs to know just billing and diagnostic codes and a few pieces of demographic data to permit reimbursement. Interacting with the same system, the patient’s doctor needs to verify that the diagnosis and referral information is for the correct patient, but doesn't need to see the payment or address information. The patient needs access to the claim status, while the patient's employer only needs to know the number of claims submitted by the employee. The insurance company provides a single service - claims processing, but each user of the service has different access needs. An advanced method of access management would increase security and efficiency by seamlessly controlling access per user at a granular data level. Ideally, it would enable the appropriate permissions and limitations for the same information system for each user based on individual attributes, and allow for permissions to multiple systems to be managed by a single platform, without a heavy administrative burden.
Access control is a fundamental aspect of Information Security and Identity Access Management (IAM). It's a mechanism that restricts access to data and system resources, ensuring they are accessible only to authorized entities, and it is achieved through different models like Role-Based, Risk-Based, Adaptive, and Continuous Based Access Control.
Adaptive Access Control (AAC):
Adaptive Access Control is a model that adjusts access control decisions based on real-time analysis of a user's behavior, system conditions, and environmental factors. For example, a user's access privileges might be restricted if they are attempting to access sensitive data at an unusual hour, or if their device is identified as insecure. This model allows access control mechanisms to adapt to changing circumstances, enhancing security.
Consent-Based Access Control (CBAC):
Consent-Based Access Control (CBAC) is an access control model that places an emphasis on user consent and privacy preferences. In this model, users have control over their personal data and can provide explicit consent for specific data sharing or access requests. For instance, in a healthcare setting, a patient can provide consent for their medical records to be shared with a specialist for a second opinion. CBAC provides users with greater autonomy over their personal data, enhancing trust and privacy.
Continuous Based Access Control (CBAC):
CBAC is a model that continuously evaluates and enforces access control policies based on real-time information. Rather than making a one-time access decision at the point of login, CBAC continuously monitors user activity and system conditions to determine if access should be maintained or revoked. For instance, if a user's behavior suddenly changes and becomes anomalous, CBAC can intervene and terminate the session, even if the user was initially granted access.
Policy-Based Access Control (PBAC):
Policy-Based Access Control (PBAC) is an access control model that defines access control policies based on attributes and conditions. It allows for more granular control and flexibility in defining access rules. For example, an organization could establish a policy that only allows access to a certain database during regular business hours and only from devices that meet specific security standards. PBAC can handle complex access control scenarios that can't be addressed by role-based access controls alone.
Risk-Based Access Control (RBAC):
Risk-Based Access Control, though sharing the same acronym as Role-Based Access Control, is a distinctly different model. It incorporates risk assessment into the access control decision-making process. For example, an organization might have a policy that allows employees to access certain sensitive resources only from within the organization's physical premises. If an access request for these resources comes from an unknown location, the Risk-Based Access Control system would flag this as high-risk and could deny access or require additional authentication. This dynamic approach to access control helps organizations adapt to evolving threats and mitigate potential risks.
Role Based Access Control (RBAC):
RBAC is a model where user access rights and permissions are granted based on their role in the organization. In essence, RBAC associates roles with access permissions, and then users are assigned to these roles. For instance, in a hospital, the role "doctor" may have access to patient medical records, while the role "receptionist" may only have access to appointment scheduling systems. This way, when a new doctor is hired, they are simply assigned the role of "doctor", automatically granting them access to the necessary data and systems, without needing to manually set permissions for each new user. This approach is effective in large organizations where roles are clearly defined, and it simplifies the access management process, making it more efficient.
Privileged Access Management (PAM) is one of the most common challenges faced by organizations when it comes to access controls. PAM involves managing and monitoring the access privileges of privileged users, such as administrators, who have elevated permissions within an IT environment. Privileged accounts are often targeted by attackers because compromising them can provide extensive access to sensitive systems and data. Therefore, organizations need robust PAM solutions to ensure the secure management of privileged access and minimize the risk of unauthorized activities.
Onboarding, the process of granting access to new employees or users, can be a complex and time-consuming task. It involves provisioning user accounts, assigning appropriate roles and permissions, and ensuring that new users have access to the resources they need to perform their job functions. Without efficient onboarding processes, organizations may face delays in providing access to new employees, impacting productivity and creating frustration for both the employees and IT teams responsible for access management.
Similarly, offboarding, the process of revoking access for departing employees or users, presents its own set of challenges. It is crucial to promptly revoke access to sensitive data and systems to prevent unauthorized access after an employee leaves the organization. Failure to do so can lead to data breaches or unauthorized activities. Offboarding processes should be streamlined to ensure that access rights are promptly revoked and that all relevant accounts and permissions are properly disabled or removed.
Another common challenge is managing access when employees move between departments within an organization. When an employee changes roles or departments, their access requirements often change as well. Ensuring that employees have the appropriate access permissions aligned with their new responsibilities can be complex, especially in large organizations with numerous systems and resources. Without a well-defined and efficient process, there is a risk of either granting excessive access, which can compromise security, or providing insufficient access, which can hinder productivity.
While access controls are crucial for maintaining security and privacy, organizations face various challenges in implementing and managing them effectively. Onboarding, offboarding, and departmental changes for provisioning are among the most common challenges, requiring efficient processes and systems. Additionally, privileged access management remains a significant challenge for most organizations, given the risks associated with elevated access privileges. Overcoming these challenges requires robust access control solutions, streamlined processes, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of access rights to ensure the appropriate level of security and efficiency.