Identity Governance Blog

The Renaissance of Role-Based Access Control

March 26, 2019

With the risk of a data breach continuing to rise, and the compliance requirements of EU GDPR well and truly implemented, understanding who has access to which systems and data in your organization, and why, is one of the key operational challenges of today. Especially in the extended enterprise landscape that encompasses partners, suppliers, contractors and remote users, regulatory requirements and the fear of being the next data breach headline increases the pressure.

But how do you lock down your data to minimize risk of data breaches and consequently reputational or financial damage? Identity management and access governance is a critical security challenge to this. Lack of access control and automated provisioning can be costly for an organization, in more ways than one. It means new employees and contractors may be given access to systems they should not have access to, and inadvertently puts the security profile of the company at risk because they are not up and running as quickly as they need to be.

However, implementing access control is as complex as it gets. What permissions does each user actually need? How do you make sure that provisioning procedures are administered uniformly across the enterprise? How do you keep track of authorized and unauthorized access? And how do you enforce access policies across heterogeneous systems and applications?

First step to a strong enterprise access control

It is complex, time-consuming and inefficient to manage access rights for thousands of users across an organization manually, while still trying to retain consistency across various systems. It also creates high risk of error. If too much access is given to a user, you are open to insider abuse, but also hackers who gain access through unused or poorly managed accounts, giving them direct access to a company’s assets.

Having full control of the access rights, which are constantly changing in a complex mix of users, IT systems, and organizational structures, is no mean feat. Regulations and legislations which continually apply changes only makes it more difficult to keep the access rights updated.

Instead of managing user access rights on a granular level, user access rights need to be consolidated across various systems to a set of roles: Role-based Access Control (RBAC). This means, that if you work in the Finance team, you will have one set of defined access rights, according to your role, which will be different from someone who is working in a role in the Marketing team.

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

With the proper implementation of RBAC, the assignment of access rights becomes systematic and repeatable. It is also much easier to audit user rights, and to correct any issues identified. And although RBAC may sound a bit overwhelming to implement, the reality of it is actually quite easy to launch, with the ongoing management of access rights becoming even easier and much more secure.

How to implement Role Based Access Control?

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

The first step is to analyze the system needs of your workforce, with group users into roles based on common job responsibilities and system access needs. Each person gets their access assigned strictly on their role assignment. Tight adherence to the access requirements established for each role means that access management becomes much easier.

Implementing role-based access management also enforces access management policies by roles, in accordance with polices and regulations, allowing an organization to apply sets of roles for simple and consistent permission management across numerous systems and users. This, in turn, helps 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, increasing transparency through the documentation of requests and approvals, making preparation for audits and compliance reporting, with full audit trails, easy.

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 a consistently high level of control and an 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 usually 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 actually take place.

A Role Based Access Control Use Case

Global food ingredients solution firm Danisco DuPont had ambitions of increasing enterprise effectiveness and fulfilling stringent regulatory policies with identity management. The organization, among others, sought advanced role-based access control and the mitigation of segregation of duties, as well as compliance reporting, to ensure constant control and accurate overview of users and access across the heterogeneous system environment. With the advanced role-based access control in place, their system access was automatically provisioned by the solution based on an employee’s role or roles in the company, reducing administration and increasing productivity levels.

Want to learn more about how identity and access management and role-based access control can help your organization get in control? Get our guide to Identity Governance and Administration Best Practice Processes:

Download IdentityPROCESS+


Media Contact:

Corey Eldridge
[email protected]

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