Data access control is a crucial concept in data security, as it is about restricting access to data based on carefully designed policies. The two primary components of data access control are authentication and authorization. Authentication verifies users’ identities, while authorization determines their level of access and the actions they can perform.
Why do you need data access control?
Access control is crucial for maintaining security, complying with regulatory standards, and enhancing accountability. By restricting access to authorized personnel, organizations can prevent theft, damage, or unauthorized use of resources, manage employee access efficiently, create an audit trail for legal purposes, and save time and resources through automated verification. Access control is an essential component of any effective security and risk management strategy.
According to the 2018 Global Data Risk Report, by Varonis, 41% of companies have over 1,000 sensitive files open to everyone (every employee within the organization). Allowing sensitive information to be accessed without the appropriate authorization, will undoubtedly increase the risk of a data breach. According to the above report, it takes IT professionals roughly 8-6 hours per folder to identify and remove global access groups. The reason it takes so long is that they must identify which users need access to which resources, which can sometimes involve interviewing employees to determine what access they have, and what access they need. As such, implementing access controls should be an ongoing process.
Data access control methods
There are four main models for implementing data access control:
- Discretionary access control (DAC): This is the least restrictive model, relying on the owner or administrator of the resource to determine who should have access to a given resource. It provides complete discretion for setting permission privileges but makes it challenging to monitor access to sensitive information.
- Mandatory access control (MAC): This method relies on a central authority, such as an administrator, to grant and revoke access. End-users have no control over permission settings, making it difficult to manage. MAC is commonly used in military organizations.
- Role-based access control (RBAC): With this method, employees receive different access privileges based on their job functions and responsibilities. It’s designed around predetermined roles defined by criteria such as department, individual responsibilities, and authority.
- Attribute-based access control (ABAC): This is a dynamic data access control model where access is granted based on attributes and environmental conditions, such as location and time. ABAC provides more flexibility than RBAC, allowing for dynamic changes in access controls without modifying subject/object relationships.
How to implement data access control
To implement data access control, companies should first identify and replace global access groups with tightly managed security groups, and test all changes to avoid issues. They must ensure that access is granted in accordance with the principle of Least Privilege (PoLP), which stipulates that users are only granted access to the resources they need to fulfill their role. This should also include Just-In-Time (JIT) access, to ensure that access is revoked immediately when it is no longer required.
Below are some additional tips to help you implement data access control:
Develop an access control policy
Your policy should define how access is granted, approved, modified, reviewed, and revoked. You should document the roles that exist within your organization, along with the responsibilities tied to those roles. You will also need to document the account types within your organization, such as guest user, standard user, privileged user, system, service, and so on.
Classify your sensitive data
Knowing exactly what data you have, where it is located, and how sensitive the data is, will make it a lot easier to assign the appropriate access controls. A data classification software will scan your repositories, whether on-premise or cloud-based, and classify data as it is found. Some solutions can even classify data at the point of creation/modification, and some can classify data in accordance with the relevant data protection laws.
Monitor access to your data
You must continuously monitor your accounts for suspicious behavior. A real-time change auditing software will give you visibility into how your accounts are being accessed and used. Many sophisticated solutions use machine learning models to identify anomalies and will send real-time alerts to your inbox or mobile device. They will also provide you with an intuitive dashboard to help you review your access controls, and identify over-privileged accounts.
Use multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security mechanism that requires a user to provide multiple forms of authentication before being granted access to a system or sensitive data. MFA typically involves at least two of the following factors: something the user knows (such as a password or PIN), something the user has (such as a smart card or mobile phone), or something the user is (such as a biometric identifier like a fingerprint or facial recognition). MFA is an effective way to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive information.
How Lepide helps with access control
The Lepide Data Security Platform helps you locate, review and monitor permissions to your data and infrastructure, as well as identify over-privileged accounts through user behavior analytics. Lepide uses machine learning techniques to automatically detect and respond to anomalies, including unusual account and data access, failed login attempts, and bulk file encryption. It can detect and manage inactive user accounts, automatically rotate passwords, and a lot more.
If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can give you more visibility and control over how your account is accessed and used, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.