In most cases, businesses and organizations only grant access to their computer systems to people who require it to perform their jobs.
Confidential information is safeguarded from illegal access and undesired alterations in this way. Individual access authorizations are defined in the so-called access control list (ACL) to maintain security in large enterprises.
Its disadvantage is that as the number of users grows, so does the amount of maintenance work required, and as a result, more errors might occur when giving individual authorizations. Role-based access control, or RBAC, is a versatile and economical solution.
Definition of RBAC
Role-based access control (RBAC) is a technique of advanced access control that restricts network access based on a person’s role within an organization.
The word “role-based” is crucial to comprehending RBAC since it distinguishes it from other security concepts like mandatory access control. In this architecture, the system administrator assigns each user and object a security level and category based on their role. The operating system connects the two levels automatically and then permits or restricts access.
In a nutshell, RBAC roles refer to the different levels of network access that employees have.
Employees are only given access to the information they need to do their jobs efficiently. Several elements, such as authority, responsibility, and job ability, might influence access. Furthermore, access to computer resources might be restricted to specific operations, such as viewing, creating, or editing a file.
In this way, if lower-level employees do not require sensitive data to accomplish their obligations, they frequently do not have access to it.
That is especially useful if you have a large number of employees and rely on third-party vendors and contractors to manage network access. RBAC will aid in the security of your company’s sensitive data and critical applications.
How Role-Based Access Control Works?
The rights of roles must be described in as much detail as feasible before the notion of RBAC authorization can be implemented in a corporation. That includes detailed authorization specifications in the following areas:
- Modify data access privileges.
- Business application access permissions.
- Authorizations within the applications.
To take full advantage of the RBAC model, you must:
- Always start with roles and authorizations. As a result, the business assigns all employee responsibilities to roles, which determine their access permissions.
- Employees receive roles based on their responsibilities. One or more roles can be assigned to each user using role-based access control. As a result, access authorizations can be set separately within the role model.
This project aims to make sure that users’ accesses allow them to do all of their tasks without having to make any additional adjustments.
An identity access management system is used to enforce and monitor RBAC (IAM). This system is beneficial for companies with many employees in terms of registering, controlling, and updating all identities and access privileges.
Benefits of RBAC
Using RBAC to restrict unneeded network access based on people’s positions within an organization has a variety of advantages, including:
1) Increasing Operational Effectiveness
When hiring new employees or changing the roles of existing ones, firms can use RBAC to reduce the need for documentation and password changes. RBAC enables organizations to swiftly add and update responsibilities across platforms, operating systems, and apps.
It also reduces the chance of human error when assigning user permissions. Furthermore, companies can more quickly integrate them into their networks by assigning established responsibilities to third-party users.
2) Providing Greater Visibility to Administrators
RBAC provides network administrators and managers with greater visibility and control over the organization while also ensuring that authorized users and guests on the system are only allowed access to the information they require to perform their tasks.
3) Improving Compliance
Local, state, and federal regulations must all be followed by any organization. Because executives and IT departments can more effectively regulate how data is accessed and utilized, companies prefer to deploy RBAC systems to meet regulatory and legislative requirements for confidentiality and privacy. That is especially critical for financial institutions and healthcare organizations that handle sensitive information.
4) Reducing the Risk of Data Breaches and Leaking
RBAC restricts access to sensitive information, lowering the risk of data breaches or leaking.
5) Lowering Costs
Companies can save money by restricting user access to particular processes and programs. That allows them to use network bandwidth, memory, and storage more efficiently.
Role titles are frequently simple to grasp, which improves user transparency and comprehension.
Example of RBAC
It’s helpful to have a basic example to aid you while implementing an RBAC system. Although RBAC may appear to be a complicated method, it is found in many regularly used systems.
You can regulate what end-users can do at both a broad and detailed level with RBAC. You can specify whether the user is an administrator, a specialist user, or an end-user, and you can match responsibilities and access rights to your employees’ job titles. Permissions are granted solely to the extent that they are required for employees to perform their duties.
You may need to manually assign an end user’s role to another one if their job changes, or you can assign roles to a role group. Failing that, you can use a role assignment policy to add or remove people from a set of functions.
An RBAC Tool's Designations
- Management role: These are the types of responsibilities that a given role group can accomplish.
- Management role group: Members can be added and removed.
- Management role scope: This specifies which items a role group is permitted to manage.
- Management role assignment: It connects a role to a role group.
When a user is added to a role group, they gain access to all of the roles within that group. Access is restricted if they are removed. Users can also be allocated to numerous groups if they only need access to specific data or applications for a short duration and then deleted after completing the project.
Users can also have access thanks to the following options:
- Primary: This refers to the account or role’s primary contact.
- Administrative: It allows users to execute administrative duties to gain access.
- Billing: It refers to an end user’s access to a billing account.
- Technical: It is provided to people who do technical work.
Some examples of RBAC that we can find in these role groups are:
- Marketing role (HubSpot, Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, and Google Ads).
- Software engineering role (GCP, AWS, and GitHub).
- Human resources role (Lever and BambooHR).
- Finance role (Xero and ADP).
RBAC Best practices
You can improve your security posture, comply with relevant regulations, and reduce operational overhead by using role-based access control. However, adopting RBAC across a whole business can be difficult, and stakeholders may push back.
Implementing an RBAC in your organization should not be taken lightly. A number of general practices can be used to bring the team on board without producing unnecessary confusion or workplace annoyances. Here are a few examples:
- The first step is to identify your requirements. Before implementing RBAC, you should be aware of the software that some job functions, supporting business functions, and technologies use. It would be best if you also thought about any regulatory or audit responsibilities you may have.
- Then you must decide on the scope of your implementation. Consider first reducing the scope to systems or applications that store sensitive data rather than implementing RBAC throughout the entire enterprise.
- It is critical to establish roles. After you’ve completed your analysis and agreed on the scope, you can start designing roles based on the permissions that each function requires. Avoid common role design errors such as too much or too little granularity, role overlap, and allowing too many exceptions.
- It is necessary to write a policy. Any modifications must be documented for present and future employees to examine. Even if you utilize an RBAC tool, documentation can assist you in preventing problems.
- Consider implementing RBAC in stages to reduce burden and business interruption. Before adding granularity, start with a core set of users and coarse-grain controls. Before adding more roles, get feedback from internal users and keep an eye on your business data.
- Provide training so that personnel is aware of the RBAC principles.
- You must constantly adjust to each situation. Most organizations require several iterations to implement RBAC successfully. You should examine your responsibilities and security controls regularly from the start.
RBAC is a robust paradigm for restricting access to critical data and resources, and it may drastically improve the security of your systems if done correctly.
Keep in mind, however, that RBAC is not a security panacea. Bad actors will employ various tactics to gain unauthorized access, so you shouldn’t rely simply on preventative policies like RBAC to keep your data safe.
An RBAC system can help ensure that the company’s data complies with privacy and confidentiality laws. It can also secure key business processes, such as access to Intellectual Property, that have a competitive impact on the company.