What is an Access Control Policy?

Access control policies are a critical part of any functional security plan. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describes access control policies as “high-level requirements that specify how access is managed and who may access information under what circumstances.” In other words, these policies provide the framework through which access rules and protocols are enforced in an organization. 

Physical access control policies outline how access permissions are granted for a building or suite. When combined with the appropriate access control technology, policies protect employees, assets, intellectual property and trade secrets. 

In this article, we will cover access control policy models and best practices. With a clearer understanding of functional access control policies, it’s easier to get leadership and employees on board with your program!

Access Control Models

In today’s security industry, physical access comes in several different access control types or models. The size and scope of your business will be extremely influential in choosing an appropriate access control model. Similarly, your access control software will dictate which of these models is most applicable for your specific operation. Let’s review the four main access control models from which to choose from: 

Role-based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-based access control systems (RBAC), sometimes known as non-discretionary access control, are dictated by different user job titles within an organization. Simply put, access levels are set forth according to different roles. 

To illustrate, managers often have privileged access to sensitive parts of the building, while entry-level team members do not. 

The separation of duties is a clean and efficient way to grant access authorization and develop access control lists. 

Attribute-based Access Control (ABAC)

Attribute-based access control (ABAC) uses characteristics to regulate physical access to a building. These systems grant access based on attributes of a particular employee, such as hire date or department. The overarching goal of the ABAC model is to protect sensitive technology and information from team members who aren’t approved. 

Due to the granular nature of ABAC systems and their malleability, they are commonly used for information security purposes—such as different levels of “user access” on a Google Doc. 

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

Discretionary access control (DAC) “is a means of assigning rights based on rules specified by users. The underlying philosophy in DAC is that subjects can determine who has access to their objects.” 

Companies enjoy DAC access control models because they are extremely flexible and easy to use. For example, a CEO could grant authorized users access for a meeting, then remove the access afterward. Even more, because employees are responsible for granting access to their locations, DAC systems remove much of the need for additional system administrators. 

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

Mandatory access control (MAC) models regulate access to information or parts of a building based on the sensitivity of the materials within. While access in DAC models is totally controlled by users themselves, MAC systems are regulated by a centralized system and are typically much more stringent with their policies.

A common example of a MAC model would be a “top secret” security clearance. In this situation, different levels of access are granted to people who are matched to the sensitivity of the materials housed within. This might look like a classified government employee who gains access to a highly-sensitive area or information system. Conversely, end-users with the lowest security clearances have the least privileges. 

Because of the level of account management involved, MAC policies are typically reserved for enterprises or government institutions with full-time system administrators.

Best Practices for Access Control Policies

In the end, access control policies must do more than simply explain rules—they must also be easily adoptable by managers and employees alike. 

By creating a well-planned and functional policy, it will be easily implemented without disciplinary action. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Keep Access Rights on a Need-to-know Basis

One of the most important elements of a functional access control policy is creating different tiers that match your organizational units. 

For starters, you should identify people’s respective areas of responsibility within their roles in relation to the greater organization. Next, grant physical access to certain parts of your facility following employees’ overall job functions. 

Doing so will ensure that access rights will only be granted to user accounts on a need-to-know basis. 

Designing a tiered access policy can be done simply if approached in the right fashion. The basic principle is to match each organizational unit to the doors and areas they explicitly need access to. In the end, keeping your system organized and streamlined is the best way to protect against security breaches and physical threats.

Another important step is to define who should have permanent access and who should have temporary access. This process involves not only assessing team member access policies but also considering regular vendors like IT specialists and maintenance teams. 

Make Sensitive Information Dynamic

Making dynamic policies for access to sensitive information is a great way to streamline operations and protect yourself against any data or security breaches.

In the end, job titles and business structures change. Setting up your access control policies to account for such changes is a fluid way to approach security. Even more, by occasionally changing your management system, you keep your information security policy fresh and secure. 

If access to sensitive information is regularly changed, it creates a dynamic environment that greatly lessens security risk in your operation. 

Clearly Define Levels of Access Company-wide

Once you have developed a tiered access policy to match your organizational units, you must now consider how you will implement the policy. To clearly define different levels of access across your operation, employee training and enforcement are critical.

While creating an access policy is an excellent first step, it won’t be effective unless levels of access are clearly explained to employees. One of the most critical components of access policy implementation is getting employees to “buy-in” from the bottom of the organization to the top. 

To ensure that other team members get on board with your access control policy, it’s best to have Information Technology (IT) teams and Human Resources (HR) departments help enforce the rules. 

After all, it’s in everyone’s best interest to protect the organization. 

Automate Authentication

In the end, making your access policy convenient for all is one of the best ways to ensure its successful implementation. As such, modern access control tools like those provided by Genea are critical for launching successful access control programs.

Automating the credentials authentication process will help ensure your access policy remains intact. Whether it be with mobile credentials, keycards, or biometric identification, automated entry to different parts of the building is convenient and functional. Not only do automated doorways regulate who enters your building and where, but they can also keep track of all these movements.

For added security, multi-factor authentication (MFA) systems can be integrated into physical checkpoints and cybersecurity protocol. For MFA checkpoints, mobile devices offer convenient user credentials to grant network access, as well as block unauthorized access. 

Revolutionize with Physical Access Control with Genea

Genea Security systems offer a plethora of tools that can be used to enforce your physical access control policy. Not only does our cloud-based system give you convenient access to your building, but it easily integrates with a number of other security systems like surveillance cameras. 

With seamless API integrations with platforms like Slack, you can get notified when people enter different parts of your building. Even more, Genea software tracks people’s movements in the building, offering rich data sets you can reference for policy revisions. Not only does the Genea operating system protect your business now, but it helps you prepare for future security requirements. 

Genea technology is the perfect complement to a functional access control policy. Please contact us to discuss your access control needs and security policy standards in more detail. 

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