In organizations that have major divisions, creating a role-based access control system is essential in mitigating data loss. Role-based access control (RBAC) is already a proven concept in IT systems, which is realized by many operating systems to control access to system resources. For the last 25 years, it has become one of the main methods for advanced access control.

Basically, what RBAC does is to restrict network access based on a person’s role within an organization. The roles in RBAC are related to the levels of access that employees have to the network. That means that they are only allowed to access the information needed to effectively execute their job tasks. Access can be based on several factors, such as authority, responsibility, and job competency. As a result, lower-level employees usually do not have access to sensitive data if they do not need it to fulfil their responsibilities. This is especially helpful if you have many employees and use third-parties and contractors that make it difficult to closely monitor network access. Using RBAC will help in securing your company’s sensitive data and important applications.

Why RBAC matters?

For many organizations which are divided into multiple departments and have their own set of dedicated employees with their own computers, the role-based access control system is the best solution for enhanced security. With role-based security, administrators can achieve both optimal data protection and user productivity by granting varying levels of permissions to users based on their role. As a result, only the authorized users can easily access information pertaining to their department and specific function and the access to all other company data remains restricted.

Best practices for implementing RBAC

Managing and auditing network access is crucial to information security. With hundreds or thousands of employees in the enterprise, security is more easily maintained by limiting unnecessary access to sensitive information based on a user’s established role within the company. That is why implementing role-based access control across an entire organization is important, but at the same time could be complex. To successfully implement RBAC, you should follow these best practices:

  • Develop an RBAC Strategy

To create a strategy you should start with an assessment of where you are (data, process, policy, systems). The second step is to define your desired future state (automated provisioning of access through RBAC for a set of apps and systems), and at the end to identify your gaps that must be addressed (data quality, process issues, different authentication/authorization models across systems).

  • Scope your implementation

In case you do not necessarily have to implement RBAC across your entire organization right away, it is better to consider narrowing the scope to systems or applications that store sensitive data first.

  • Role classification

The primary step to provide role-based security is to assign roles. This can be done by distinguishing between the various users within the business and their diverse functions. Usually, these roles are based on the job titles that fall under major divisions such as finance, marketing, human resources, etc. Administrators should also provide a name and a description for each role-based access control policy that they create. For easy categorization and tracking of these policies, you can name them by the job title they apply to, and in the description, you can specify the department as well as other important details about this role.

  • Build policies related to a role

After a policy is named and its description is filled in accordance with a role, the settings can be configured. First, the devices that belong to the more prominent users who have administrative or executive roles can be added into the whitelist. These devices can be granted increased mobility when it comes to accessing various information across their department. Then, for the majority of the other employees, their devices can be given read-only permissions or delegated specific rights to access only the information critical to their job requirements while access to all other data remains restricted.

  • Modify policies and user privileges to stay updated

Since there is always a constant influx of employees, no matter they are new or come from other departments of the organization, their devices should be categorized as trusted or blocked, and their computers should be inserted into a custom group. This best practice also applies if existing users obtain new equipment. This proactive approach ensures that device and file control policies are enforced right from a user’s introduction and through the rest of their career in the company. In this way their activities always remain monitored, and the opportunity for data loss is eliminated.

  • Roll out in stages

A useful practice is to consider rolling out RBAC in stages to reduce workload and disruption to the business. You can begin with a core set of users and coarse-grain controls before increasing granularity. Then proceed collecting feedback from internal users and monitor your business metrics before implementing additional roles.