Guide: Access Control

A Guide to Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Companies from all industries are concerned about safeguarding their IT investments, and this involves providing restricted access to employees, so that they can only use the features and functions necessary for their work. This is called the ‘Principle of Least Privilege’. However, it can be quite challenging to implement, especially for larger corporations that have thousands of employees.

Moreover, this principle can be quite time-consuming and costly to implement. Since the amount of data and IT systems continues to increase exponentially year after year, a unified and efficient solution is needed that can help to manage access across the board. Thankfully, there is a long-term solution that can be implemented: Role-Based Access Control (RBAC).

In this article, you will learn:

This is part of our access control guide.

What is Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)?

Role-Based Access Control is an advanced permissions management model that assigns access levels to users based on their role in the organization. In this model, the permissions granted to a user are tied in with their position in the company, and this goes a long way toward preventing unauthorized access, which can further lead to data theft, leaks, or compromised security.

In the RBAC, a role is defined as a collection of permissions that encapsulate different job functions and responsibilities in an organization. RBAC is more of an approach that complements other security policies employed in the organization. This way, the overall security mechanism of the company becomes stronger, and it also enables managers to assign role-based permissions to users effectively.

An important thing to understand here is the difference between roles and groups.

  • Groups involve assigning users with similar permission levels to perform a task, even if it doesn’t align with their job functions. 
  • Roles are assigned to job functions, and users who lie in the category are assigned to perform the specific job or task.

Benefits of Role-Based Access Control

One of the biggest benefits of employing the role and permission-based access model is that it enhances operational efficiency, thereby reducing the need for manual processes and paperwork. 

System administrators don’t have to change passwords or authorization rules whenever a new employee has been added or the permissions for an existing employee have changed. Moreover, RBAC can be used to quickly set and modify roles, while also implementing them on different platforms.

Plus, you can cut down on the margin for error when you are assigning permissions for employees in your organization. Also, it allows you to bring third-party users onboard for a single project or a limited time. 

Here are some of the other benefits of Role-Based Access Control.

1. Fulfilling Compliance Requirements

Another benefit of implementing the RBAC model is that it offers organizations the ease of compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. Several companies are making use of RBAC policies to fulfill the regulations and statutory requirements for data privacy and confidentiality, allowing executives to manage and use data for efficient business operations. Protecting data privacy is particularly important for some industries, particularly finance, and healthcare.

2. Greater Visibility for Administrators

Network administrators and managers have a huge responsibility on their hands because they have to manage permissions and access for each and every user within the organization. They can make use of the RBAC method to get more visibility into business operations, which helps them provide the required access and permissions to employees who are responsible for fulfilling certain tasks.

3. Lower Operational Costs

Another huge benefit of Role-Based Access Control is that it helps network and system administrators save the company money, since they restrict access to specific processes and applications, rather than allowing them complete access to all the resources. This way, every user only consumes a small amount of bandwidth and memory in the system, and it keeps the company from overpaying for excessive usage of resources that aren’t even properly utilized.

4. Lower Risk of Security Breaches

Last but not least, RBAC access control is specifically helpful for data security experts, who are responsible for restricting access to sensitive and crucial information which, if leaked, can cause company losses amounting to millions of dollars. Moreover, the company’s clients can also suffer from the data breach, since their private and essential information may be compromised. Therefore, one of the biggest benefits of RBAC is its ability to prevent sensitive data leakage or theft.

RBAC Principles

There are several variations of the Role-Based Access Control method, and its different components are configured by system administrators. Alternatively, the components can also be configured through the delegated roles indirectly. The net result of all the configured components determines the policy enforced by an organization.

Generally, RBAC is known to be policy-neutral. There are three principles that it involves, namely data abstraction, least privilege, and separation of duties.

  •  Least Privilege: This principle defines that users and programs should only have access to the suitable privileges needed to complete the required tasks.
  • Separation of Duties: This principle involves restrictive internal controls in an organization’s compliance policy, in order to eliminate the risk of error and fraud.
  • Data Abstraction: This principle involves the application of crucial features without having to include the background details and explanations.

Types of Role-Based Access Control

Through RBAC, system and network administrators are able to determine the roles and permissions for users throughout the organization, as well as on a granular level. They can also allocate roles to users, i.e. administrators, special users, and end-users, and also align roles according to the employees’ positions.

Some of the types of Role-Based Access Control include:

  • Management Role Scope: It restricts the objects each role group can manage.
  • Management Role Group: It allows you to add or remove users.
  • Management Role: These tasks can only be performed by a certain role group.
  •  Management Role Assignment: This assigns the role to a certain role group.

Apart from these, some of the types of RBAC user access include:

  •  Primary – primary contact for a certain role.
  •  Billing – providing access to an employee for the billing account.
  • Technical – assigned to employees for performing technical tasks.
  •  Administrative – assigned to employees for performing administrative tasks.

RBAC vs. ABAC

Role-Based Access Control isn’t the only method of access control used by organizations. Another popular method is called Attribute-Based Access Control, which is also known as an evolved version of the former. 

Attribute-Based Access Control, or ABAC, involves the use of attributes, in place of roles, to assign permissions to users. It also makes use of the qualities resources, actions, and other factors to determine how access will be granted. Moreover, ABAC contains certain terms that are used in different organizations, i.e. subject, resource, action, environment, etc. 

The basic difference between RBAC and ABAC is that the former is used for broader access allocation across the board, whereas the latter is much more advanced. Moreover, it requires higher processing power, and also allows for finer and more specific access assignments.

Conclusion

This concludes our guide to Role-Based Access Control, and how you can manage your company’s access management and role assignments more effectively. It can be used to provide fine-grained access to each and every user in the system, and also ensure optimized utilization of company resources. There is no doubt that RBAC is the way forward for companies looking to upgrade their systems and make their operations smoother.

Apply RBAC On Any Database

With Satori, you can apply RBAC, as well as ABAC, on any data access to your data warehouses and databases. This is done regardless of their native capabilities. To learn more read about our product capabilities.