How to Choose the Best Access Control System

When it comes to access control, it’s important to know which system types will best fit your organization’s needs.

It takes valuable company time for a team member to submit a ticket to the IT help desk and wait before being granted access to information like documents or presentation slides. This can be frustrating for team members, who may only need rapid access to one file.

Although it can be inconvenient, there are reasons why access control is needed, especially in the era of cybersecurity threats.

We’ll explore how access control works and how your company can streamline processes through a real-time access control system.

How does access control work?

Access control limits unauthorized access to physical and logical systems. An access control system identifies users by verifying various login credentials. Once a user is confirmed, the access control system will authorize the appropriate access level and allow actions associated with that user’s credentials.

Types of access control systems

Here’s a complete breakdown of the different types of access control systems:

1. Mandatory access control

Mandatory access control systems are the most secure type of access control. They’re also the most inflexible as they only allow the system’s owner or administrator to control and manage access.

People are given access based on different security levels and information clearance. The end-user can only access points that the system owners allow them to access. The end-user doesn’t have control over any permissions or privileges. This type of high-level control is generally found in organizations such as the government and military.

2. Discretionary access control

Discretionary access control systems are considered the least restrictive type of access control and provide the highest number of allowances. This system is best for companies that want flexibility and a tool that is easy to use. However, flexibility can have its downsides as it may not be as secure as other types of access control systems, including mandatory. While one person has total control over the system, they might grant access to someone who shouldn’t have it.

3. Role-based access control

Role-based access control is fast becoming the most popular type of access control system. The administrator assigns an individual only the amount of access required to do their job. This access model type is extremely beneficial for IT managers and business owners. It allows you to group employees based on the kind of resources they require access for instead of assigning permissions to individual users like in a mandatory access control system.

It also reduces the time required to set up or change user access in the system.
For example, if you have two marketing managers, five accountants, and eight salespeople, you wouldn’t have to create 15 individual security profiles in the system—you’d only have to create three: one for each job title.

4. Rule-based access control

Rule-based access control is based on a selection of attributes and environmental factors, such as time of day and location, created by the administrator. For example, if your business closes at 6 p.m., you won’t require your staff to access your office after 6 p.m. With a rule-based access control system, you can set a rule to deny access to all employees from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. the following day, and rules can be set up for any event.

5. Attribute access control

Access is granted not based on a user’s rights after authentication but on their attributes. It’s an advanced way to determine access using qualities such as employee status, department, position, device type, IP address, or any other factors. These attributes can also be obtained and imported from a database, LDAP server, or even from a business partner.

6. Identity-based access control

Identity-based access control is a simplified method that dictates whether a person is permitted or denied based on their individual visual or biometric identity. For example, a user will be approved or denied access based on if their identity can be matched with a name that appears on an access control list.

The administrator can manage activity and access based on individual needs. One of the advantages of this identity-based security method is it provides granular access to individuals in the system, rather than having to group employees manually.

7. History-based access control

In this system, a user’s historical activities will determine whether or not they are going to be granted access. This entails real-time evaluation of the user’s historical activities, such as the time between requests and the content requested. For example, if a user has a record of working solely with accounting materials and then requests access to a product roadmap, this may be flagged in the system.

Why does access control matter?

Access control is important because it minimizes company risk, but it can also be a big part of regulatory compliance. Meeting your company’s compliance needs is a significant factor in choosing an access control system.

With many different specifications, it can be challenging to track which standards are most important. However, here are some of the more common requirements that you may be asked to meet:

  • SOC 2: SOC 2 is a data security and privacy framework where compliance is voluntary but extremely advisable for all service providers that process and store customer data. including Nira. 
  • ISO 27001: An information security standard that acts as the framework for all policies and processes within an ISMS in relation to how data is used and controlled. Its focus is to protect confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
  • HIPAA: The majority will think of this requirement within the healthcare context; however, companies also deal with large amounts of health information. For example, when an employee requests medical leave, employers need to keep a record of the absence confidential. Businesses can use access control to keep this documentation locked in a secure place.
  • PCI DSS: Requirement 9 requires organizations to have physical access controls for their buildings. They must also have sufficient logical access controls to minimize cybersecurity risks like data theft. Requirement 10 requires organizations to track and monitor access to all customer data and network resources.

Criteria for selecting an access control system

It’s essential to select the right access control system for your business, as hundreds of solutions are on the market and all come with different features. For example, a large company may need a more rigorous permissioning process than a small business.

Identifying the appropriate solution will depend on a variety of factors.
Here are a few to think about:

  • Your budget
  • Your organization’s size
  • Ease-of-use for members
  • How many users you need to grant permission
  • How much security you’ll need and your overall security objectives
  • The ability of the system to integrate with your existing security infrastructure
  • The access control solution’s ability to evolve with your organization over time

Access control is essential when protecting your company’s data and assets.

With the amount of data that companies have in their control and its potential to fall into the wrong hands, IT managers need an access control system as part of their overall IT strategy.

“In every data breach, access controls are among the first policies investigated.

—Ted Wagner, CISO at SAP National Security Services, Inc.

When access controls are not correctly implemented or maintained, the result can be severely damaging.

For every company whose employees connect to the internet, there needs to be some level of access control in place—especially as team members require access to company documents, resources, and services while working remotely.

To protect your company data and assets, your organization’s access control policy must address some of these questions:

  • Who should access your company’s documents and resources?
  • How do you ensure employees who need access to these documents have been granted access?
  • How do you fully offboard employees and third parties/vendors by removing access to each of their accounts, including personal accounts, and transferring ownership of documents to new accounts?

With Nira, our real-time access control system is purpose-built to provide complete visibility into each and every cloud document, employee, and external party that has access to company documents. We can help you streamline access control processes while ensuring your data is completely safe.

Getting your own access control system

Whichever way your business chooses to implement access control, it needs to be constantly monitored, both operationally and in compliance with your company security policy, to identify potential security gaps.

It’s essential to conduct governance, risk, and compliance reviews regularly. In addition, you should collect and monitor logs for violations of the policy.

With IT environments becoming more complex, access control systems must be an essential component of your overall technology infrastructure. No access control system is perfect; however, if you can protect one customer from a cyberattack, you can count that as a win.

Contact us to request a demo: we’ll help you review your current setup, implement new access controls, or answer any additional questions you may have about keeping your data safe.

Nira is a real-time access control system that provides visibility and management over who has access to company documents in Google Workspace, with more integrations coming soon.

Incredible companies use Nira

Every company that uses Google Workspace should be using Nira.
Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
Former VP of IT at GitLab

Incredible companies use Nira