A well-planned access control system can help prevent data breaches. These systems secure entry to a building, site, or room using electronic and mechanical technology.
These systems consist of two major components, authentication and authorization. Authentication is the first step and determines whether someone is who they say they are. Authorization is the second step and determines their access to data resources.
Limit Access to Sensitive Data
After completing an information audit and determining the most sensitive data in your company’s possession, you must implement safeguards to limit access. Those could be physical or technical. For example, you might have a lock on the door to prevent after-hours meandering and an ID badge to allow people into specific areas, such as the server room. Similarly, on a computer network, you can set up passwords to prevent unauthorized use of files.
Limiting system access can strengthen cybersecurity by reducing the potential impact of a cyberattack. However, it’s important to balance security with usability. If an access control application is challenging, employees may make mistakes that lead to a security gap or vulnerability that attackers can exploit.
For example, an employee might share login credentials with a coworker or a trusted outsider to gain unauthorized access to a company’s physical spaces or digital systems. Such an attack can be accomplished using various methods, such as propping open doors or windows. It can also be done with fake IDs or the help of a more sophisticated third party that helps an insider bypass security measures.
Authentication and authorization are essential access control in cybersecurity, but more is needed to strengthen security. To be effective, they need to be implemented together and paired with other security measures, such as separation of duties, logging and monitoring, secure coding practices, and multi-factor authentication.
Implement Multi-factor Authentication
Many access control systems facilitate MFA, allowing two or more types of authentication factors for identity verification. Typically, this includes something the user has (such as a physical token), something they know (passwords), and an inherent factor like face scans or retina scanners on more secure systems.
MFA reduces the risk of hackers getting access to your information by requiring multiple layers of security. Using MFA requires attackers to steal not only your card or password but also one of the other authenticators, which is much more difficult.
Other MFA methods use a time-limited one-time PIN sent to the user’s phone during the login process. This proves that the user possesses their phone and is not being impersonated.
Role-based access control limits the amount of data or system resources a user can have based on their organizational role, helping prevent overprivileged users and accidental breaches. This ensures that only employees have the right to sensitive information. In addition, regular access reviews can help detect if a user no longer needs certain privileges and revoke those permissions.
Monitor Access Permissions
Authentication and multi-factor authentication are essential to prevent unauthorized access to your data. But once a person has access to your data, they must be monitored to ensure they only do what they’re supposed to do. That means granting users only the level of access they need to complete their work and not allowing them to take advantage of your data for nefarious purposes like corrupting it or hacking into systems to steal customer lists, financial information, etc.
Monitoring access permissions can be challenging, especially in modern IT environments comprising multiple cloud services and on-premises systems with unique devices. Luckily, access control can help with this. Access rights management tools can monitor user access to sensitive files and folders, delegate access privileges to data owners, and quickly generate audit-ready reports.
A robust, proactive approach to prevent unauthorized data breaches starts with a robust password policy, regular password updates, and MFA. But it also requires a dynamic access control model that considers today’s dispersed IT environment, recognizes the shift toward cloud computing and a growing focus on mobile devices, and is based upon an analysis of the type and sensitivity of your data. This includes older models like discretionary access control (DAC) and mandatory access control (MAC), as well as more recent ones such as role-based access control (RBAC) and attribute-based access control.
Ensure the Right People Have the Right Access
Access control ensures that employees, third-party contractors, auditors, and other external entities can only access systems based on their role. This helps prevent unauthorized internal movements and mitigates the risk of passback attacks.
There are a few different types of access control models. MAC, or nondiscretionary access control, is the most restrictive model, requiring individuals to have security clearance to gain access to systems. This is a good option for organizations with highly confidential or private data. Another popular access control method is RBAC, which grants access based on the person’s role and implements fundamental security principles like the separation of privilege and least privilege. This is a better option for organizations that want to protect employee privacy.
Discretionary access control, or DAC, is the least restrictive model and allows individuals complete control over their security permissions. DAC could allow someone to create malware and infect other systems, gaining access to more sensitive information than they should have. DAC also allows an individual to grant other users the same security level they have, giving them a higher level of access than they should have. A comprehensive access control solution will allow admins to limit a person’s permissions on a need-to-know basis so they only have the resources required to do their jobs. This will help reduce a breach and protect critical business information.