July 31st, 2023

Manageability of resources is a major obstacle for enterprises. To provide effective, secure, and efficient security controls in a complex and ever-changing environment, organizations rely on a variety of operating systems and applications. Many businesses require a wide range of devices, work across different environments (on-premise and cloud) and have implemented techniques to speed up development in addition to these needs. With an increasingly sophisticated computing environment, how can enterprises ensure consistent enforcement of access controls? Policy Based Access Control (PBAC) also referred to as Policy Based Access Management, resolves this by offering efficient security measures in response to mitigating security threats and managing collaborative business processes.

What is PBAC?

Policy-Based Access Control is is defined as a method of controlling user access to one or more systems, where access privileges are determined by combining the business responsibilities of the user with policies. Instead of auditing and modifying roles across the entire organization, PBAC lets you quickly adjust entitlements in response to changes in requirements, ensuring that assets are secured through set rules or policies. PBAC is an adaptable authorization solution because it can support a variety of access points by automating security controls in applications and on data. Like Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC), the approach combines roles and attributes to produce flexible, dynamic control parameters.

How does PBAC work?

PBAC, like ABAC, is a method of granting access entitlements to company sensitive assets based on a set of rules (policies). These policies evaluate a user’s location, job role, rank, and more.
PBAC systems use a combination of four types of attributes to determine if a user should be granted access to a resource and what permissions they are entitled to on that resource:

  • Subject attributes, such as the department or job title of a user
  • Object attributes that describe the resource being accessed
  • Action attributes, which describe the action someone is trying to attempt (such as reading or editing privileges)
  • Contextual or environment attributes that assess the time, location, etc. of the attempt to gain access

The combination of these attributes with policies is what makes PBAC unique. PBAC uses Boolean logic to evaluate whether an access request is legitimate and grants only the relevant access if all the conditions met properly by the user. Policies are programmed to process the attributes in an “if, then” manner.

An example of this is as follows: a policy may state that if the user attempting to gain access to a file while working from home is an administrator and is logged in with the proper credentials, then they can access a specific file folder. However, the policies are usually more complex, considering location and other factors. For example, if the company policy states that only administrators in the U.S. only have edit access to certain files between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., an admin requesting access at 7 p.m. would be denied edit access and would only be able to view and read the file.

These policies could prevent someone with illegitimate credentials on the other side of the world from gaining undue access to a system (even if it locks out a manager working late). PBAC provides more extensive control because it takes attributes and other rules into account while adding an extra layer that allows it to be dynamic.

Why is Policy Based Access Control Important?

Data security is no longer just about protecting your perimeters or preventing cyberattacks. It is also about keeping confidential information safe from unauthorized users, which includes everyone from employees and contractors to third-party vendors and customers, as the enterprise’s entire network is prone to data loss from accidental or malicious leakage. PBAC offers a myriad of advantages such as:

#1 – Data-Centric Protection Anytime, Anywhere

A PBAC system protects your data in real-time by ensuring that sensitive information stays within its intended boundaries and never becomes vulnerable to being leaked accidentally or maliciously. It is able to provide fine-grained policy controls over every aspect of how users interact with it—from devices they connect through, applications they use on those devices and everything in between (such as files stored in the cloud).

#2 – Adherence to Security Compliance

With Policy Based Access Control, organizations can configure policies to enforce compliance with industry standards and regulations. Enterprises can define granular controls down to the individual object level and apply them across multiple environments, including virtual machines (VMs) in the public cloud or on-premises servers.

In organizations where employees are required to adhere to compliance standards, having an efficient auditing process is critical. PBAC enables an automated auditing process that makes way for enforcing policies and meeting regulatory requirements, which can be time-consuming and error-prone if done manually.

#3 – More Efficient Security Control, Lower Security Costs

PBAC is a more effective approach than traditional access control as it allows you to establish policies that are centrally managed, providing consistent enforcement across applications. Using a centrally managed policy system, authorization policies can be reviewed across the enterprise, reducing administration cost. By incorporating dynamic authorization, it also allows administrators to adjust policies to enforce new requirements in real-time. Through increasing business agility and efficiency, it enables enterprises to modernize their IT, extend competitive advantages and prevent data breaches.

For more information on Nextlabs PBAC solutions, watch Control Center Policy Authoring: Nextlabs Policy-Based Authorization Management and Control Center Administration Section- NextLabs Policy-Based Authorization Management.