Why Role-Based Access Control Is Critical for Compliance

Why Role-Based Access Control Is Critical for Compliance

Roles provide a set of permissions for each user and are associated with a hierarchy. This enables you to assign more privileges to a superior role while limiting those of the lower-level roles.

You must understand your organization and business needs to create effective role definitions. Iterative adjustments and a regular review of your security posture will help ensure that the security you implement matches the needs of your business processes and users.

Access to Data

If your employees have the right permissions, it’s much harder for hackers to access critical data. Suppose a member of the software engineering team, for example, only has access to files related to their job function and nothing else. In that case, hackers can’t get into the rest of the company’s information or use that data to perform other tasks like ransomware attacks.

role-based or user-based access control allows you to give each employee a role based on their job function, which determines their permission levels. This gives your company a more consistent security posture and adheres to regulations like GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and 23 NYCRR 500.

With RBAC, you can limit access to specific files or programs, ensuring that lower-level employees can’t manipulate higher-level information or perform complex functions. An HR administrator, for instance, might not have access to software engineering tools or complete patient records.

In addition to the protections offered by role-based access control, it’s also a good idea to implement a rule-based system alongside your RBAC to make changes to permissions quickly and easily, even if there is an error. This will reduce the labor costs associated with implementing changes and eliminate the possibility of human error during this process. It will also allow you to see which permissions are being used, which could be a red flag that someone is escalating their privileges without needing to.

Access to Applications

In addition to reducing IT overhead, role-based access control helps you comply with regulatory and statutory requirements like GDPR, LGPD, FIPA, 23 NYCRR 500, and HIPAA. By implementing RBAC, you can define a series of permission tiers that limit users’ access to data and applications. For example, you can define whether employees can read or edit files. Limiting users’ ability to change documents protects your organization from unauthorized changes and ensures compliance.

Roles can also be applied to groups of workers, allowing administrators to simplify administration and reduce up-front labor costs. By defining the permissions attached to each role, it’s easier for admins to add new workers to the system. This makes it easy to make changes when someone moves into a different position, or a worker is terminated, as the permissions associated with that role will automatically update.

When creating roles, consider how each one fits into your business model. It’s important not to over-create roles, as this can lead to a security system that is too cumbersome for end users. Ideally, you want to base each role on the principle of least privilege, ensuring that each user has the minimum access needed for their job. For instance, a junior network engineer should not have complete access to the company’s network devices; they should only be allowed to crosscheck their configuration.

Access to Servers

Role-based access control offers several benefits when managing access to servers. For one thing, it eliminates the need to create a different permission set for every user attribute. This can greatly reduce the amount of redundant work and the likelihood that permissions will be incorrectly assigned to users by accident.

Additionally, with a predefined set of roles to draw from, it’s much easier to manage changes in the system. For instance, if an employee gets promoted, the administrator can assign them to a new role, and all their existing permissions will automatically update with their new job title. This makes managing and auditing user permissions significantly easier than in a rule-based access control system.

While there are a few downsides to using role-based access control, the benefits far outweigh them. Especially for smaller organizations, the cost savings of not assigning each permission can add up. 

Access to Files

Role-based access control (RBAC) assigns users’ permissions based on their role, making it easy to keep up with changing user needs. It is also simpler to audit and adjust access. When new members join an organization, admins can easily add them to a role without breaking existing permission structures.

Depending on the role, an employee’s permission level can range from read-only to full privileges, ensuring that employees can complete their jobs without compromising security. Keeping data accessible allows teams to collaborate on projects while keeping confidential information private. For example, a salesperson can update the customer database but cannot see other team members’ information. Similarly, a doctor can view patient records but not employee information.

A privileged credential can manipulate files and applications beyond what they were designed for, including inflicting ransomware, downloading malware, or deleting data. Limiting these credentials is imperative so only the most trusted personnel have them. Creating policies is quick and simple with a tool. Then, once a policy is in place, users can be added to a role, and their permissions are automatically updated. If a team member moves positions or severs connections with your organization, you can quickly change their permissions to prevent disruptions.

Written by Joshua Galyon

Joshua is a senior editor at Snooth, covering most anything of interest in the world of science and technology. Having written on everything from the science of space exploration to advances in gene therapy, he has a real soft spot for big, complicated pieces that make for excellent weekend reads.

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