Media Coverage

Role-Based Access Control: Why You Need It

April 3, 2020

Role-Based Access Control: Why You Need It

Managing access rights based on roles makes it clear and straight-forward to control access rights for users across large complex IT environments. As many employees require the same or similar access rights to perform their day-to-day work, granting of access can be significantly simplified by grouping employees together based on their job roles in the organization.

Lack of access control and automated provisioning can be costly for an organization, in more ways than one. It means new employees and contractors are not up and running as quickly as they need to be, may be given access to systems they should not have access to, and inadvertently puts the security profile of the company at risk.

The challenges of the constantly evolving landscape

Many organizations seek constant control and an accurate overview of users and access across their systems. Managing access rights for thousands of users across an organization, while retaining consistency across the various systems is both complex and time-consuming. Having full control of access rights, which are constantly changing in a complex mix of users, IT systems, and organizational structures, is tricky, and add to that local and international regulations and legislations, continually implying changes, and you have difficulty keeping these access rights constantly updated.

Today’s cyber threat is high, and public and private organizations alike face the risk of both external attacks and insider threats. At the same time, the compliance demands are higher than ever and fines for non-compliance equally so, not to mention the devastating effect non-compliance today has on loss of reputation and loss of potential business partners.

Regulated organizations struggle to manage access rights in accordance with governance and compliance policies, face complex and time-consuming management of access rights for thousands of users while maintaining consistency across diverse systems, and have difficulties enforcing business-level control of access rights, which puts constraints on IT resources for administration. Furthermore, there is likely a lack of transparency of access rights, an inefficient manual administration process, and issues with keeping access rights updated. Role-based access control can support all of this.

How to efficiently manage access rights

Identity governance is core to good cybersecurity and one of the fundamental aspects of identity and access management is role-based access control (RBAC).

Role-based access control sees system users being assigned roles and through these roles permissions needed to perform particular functions. This means that users are not assigned permissions directly, but rather acquire them through their assigned job function or roles, meaning if someone joins the company, moves departments, goes on leave, or leaves the organization, it is easy to manage and remain in control of their access rights.

Instead of managing user access rights on a granular level, user access rights are consolidated across various systems to a set of roles. This means, that if you work in the Finance team, you automatically have one set of defined access rights, which are different than if you work in the Marketing team.

The business benefits of role-based access control

Role-based access control covers among others role permissions, user roles, and can be used to address multiple needs of organizations, from security and compliance, over efficiency and cost control.

With role-based access control, organizations reduce both the complexity of assigning user access rights and the associated costs. It provides the possibility of reviewing the access rights to ensure compliance with various regulations, as well as optimizing processes so that new employees can be up and running from day one, as it is predefined which systems the new employee should have access to, all based on his or her role in the organization.

The business benefits are many. Besides the obvious increase in security across the organization, this also increases effectivity, which results in faster onboarding and off-boarding procedures, and compliance, as an organization has a higher level of control and knowledge of who has access to what, and why, as well as reducing administrative work and IT support, and provides cost savings.

Implementing role-based access management enforces access management policies by roles, in accordance with polices and regulations, allows an organization to apply sets of roles for simple and consistent permission management across numerous systems and users, and supports organizational change management efficiently through automated user permission updates that reflect changes in users’ roles and responsibilities. It also enables business-level control of access rights by using roles to match user permissions to the organization, increase transparency including documentation of request and approval, and prepare for audits and compliance reporting, with full audit trails. Additional advantages of policy and role management include simple processes for assigning privileges to individual users, and dynamic updates of user permissions according to changes in the user’s HR data, such as changes in job function. Exceptions to the standard access management policies are thereby handled with consistent high level of control and ability to audit the process history, ensuring administrative savings and support for compliance reporting to efficiently prepare for security audits.

It is also crucial to remember that just because you are a manager, you should not have access to everything. In fact, it is quite the opposite, as it is the organization’s top layer, the CXO layer, which is of most interest to hackers. If all employees in the organization only have access to what is necessary for their area of work, you reduce the risk of a serious data leak, should a hack take place.

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