Identity Governance Blog

What are the Different Types of Access Control?

Learn more about the three types of access control – RBAC, ABAC and PBAC, with our in-depth guide, and select the right solution for your organization.

By Stephen Lowing, VP Marketing at Omada

Cybersecurity is a top priority for organizations in both private and public sectors. According to a survey of network experts, 43% of cybersecurity professionals believe the U.S. is more vulnerable to cyberattacks now than it was five years ago. That’s just in the US, but this spells bad news for businesses everywhere.

Access control methods are a vital aspect of cybersecurity that work to reduce the amount of exposure your sensitive data has to the outside world. However, access control can also be critical to enable business users of all sorts by granting them access in real-time based on whatever their current jobs are.

In this guide, we’ll discuss why access control is a crucial part of any business, the different access control system types, and the pros and cons of each.

Access control is about creating small siloes, where restricted parts of businesses are off-limits to everyone except specific groups or subsets of the workforce. 

What is Access Control?

Access control is about creating small siloes, where restricted parts of businesses are off-limits to everyone except specific groups or subsets of the workforce. The primary principle of all three types of access control systems (role-based, attribute-based, and policy-based) is that people should only have access to what they need to carry out their duties.

Protecting essential data – such as trade secrets, personal information about customers or employees, business strategies – allows companies to remain compliant with data protection laws and reduce their risk of suffering a breach.

Different types of access control assign access based on individual day-to-day needs. The underlying features of any access control type will be to ensure someone is who they say they are, and to log it in a permanent record any time someone enters the system.

But what are the right types of access control for an organization?


of cybersecurity professionals believe the U.S. is more vulnerable to cyberattacks now than it was five years ago.

The Importance of Access Control in Cybersecurity

Access control is basic cybersecurity in action. While nothing can prevent breaches entirely, it can make a huge difference in risk reduction by mitigating lateral movement. For example, if an employee gets hacked, if they are limited to only access systems based on their job in marketing, access control acts like a fire door to contain the damage and stop it from spreading.

Meanwhile, the cost of data breaches is rising. According to IBM, the cost of a data breach stands at $4.35 million – a new record that seems to be broken with each passing year. And that’s only the financial cost, breaches have a serious impact on a company’s reputation and consumer trust. It underlines the severity of the threats companies face from a cybersecurity perspective.

Here are the primary advantages of implementing access control:

  1. Know Who’s Coming and Going: Security access control systems are designed to monitor who is coming and going. Use it to prevent bad actors from accessing restricted information, applications and databases undetected.
  2. Keep Track of all Identity Activity: Access control lets you monitor how employees, third-party contractors, auditors, and more are accessing your network, including the access requests they make. Various access control types can be used to track what people are doing on the network in real time.
  3. Secure Sensitive Data: You can also limit who can access sensitive business systems and critical data, such as internal or trade secrets, or data that must be contained due to compliance mandates.
  4. Reduce Thefts: To mitigate the risk of cyber theft, access control lets you narrow the number of people who can access valuable information.
  5. Enhance Cybersecurity: Access control also benefits broader cybersecurity policies by securing business resources and limiting the dissemination of virtual credentials by strangers and insiders alike.
  6. Multi-Property Protection: Your access control solution of choice can help you protect multiple departments, subsidiaries, and networks simultaneously, as part of a unified system.

Additionally, during audits, one of the things that auditors look at is who can access sensitive information, like credit card information housed in a server, in order to be PCI compliant. Limiting the number of personnel who can read or download such information is crucial to creating a smaller target for both internal bad actors and external cybercriminals.


What Are the Three Types of Access Control

When researching types of access control in cybersecurity, there are three main access control systems to be aware of. The optimal security access control solution depends on the unique needs and risk profile of the business.

Whichever access control is right for you will depend on your organization. It bears repeating that there are no silver bullets for access control, and each system will have its strengths and weaknesses. What works for a major corporation will not necessarily work for a local accounting firm. It may be that you need a hybrid model.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of the three types of access control systems, so you can make the right choice for your team.

1. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC is the most traditionally well-known and popular type of access control. The RBAC authorisation system allows owners to assign access to the network based on defined user profiles. These profiles are based on their roles, such as managers, temporary contractors, and heads of departments.

Access privileges revolve around a person’s job title. However, exceptions can be made when necessary. Owners are free to create custom profiles to alter the access rights of employees. Small and medium-sized businesses prefer RBAC platforms because of the balance between control without requiring constant oversight.

Read our guide on role-based access control to learn more about it why you need it.


  • Transparent hierarchical structure
  • Additional owner control
  • Achieves compliance
  • Easy to monitor
  • Simple to review


  • Unsuitable for industries requiring higher levels of security
  • Is not always granular enough, e.g. when the desired output is to be implemented for individuals with unique network access requirements

2. Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

ABAC stems from RBAC but provides access control at a more granular level. The ABAC authorisation system allows application or line managers to use attributes, or characteristics about the access request, entitlement, or user. These attributes can be based on desired outcomes for what an identity will do with said access, what the resource or system being requested is, the location of the request, and more.

The ABAC system will be able to identify how users use access within the environment and develop a baseline for what is needed and what is not. Another easy way to verify this access is through certification campaigns.


  • Granular level of security
  • Provide access to a variety of roles and people based on attributes of the request, e.g. location
  • Achieves compliance
  • Simple to review


  • Challenging to get off the ground
  • Time consuming to define the variables of attributes that are necessary

3. Policy-Based Access Control (PBAC)

PBAC evaluates access rights and entitlements that can be adjusted based on new corporate policies. As organizations change, they will often write new policies to ensure that access rights are consistent, appropriate, and secure.

While PBAC and ABAC are very similar, the key difference here is that in the former, policies inform the IGA solution what to do and how to enforce access. The attributes react to the IGA solution and inform the engine how to provide access.


  • Granular level of security
  • Reactive to organizational policies implemented for access rights
  • Achieves compliance
  • Simple to review
  • Standards-driven


  • Time consuming to define policies that apply broadly and specifically


Take Back Control of Your IT with Omada

Cybersecurity requires several layers to achieve a defense-in-depth strategy. Omada is the market-leading provider of security for access management offering a cloud-based identity governance and administration solution. Our state-of-the-art systems are tailored to fit the needs of businesses without compromise.

To find out more about how Omada’s top-tier security systems can protect your business, request a free demo today.

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