Updated July 31, 2023

In this era of global business networks, we are confronted with a rapidly evolving landscape of data security and access control needs. Today’s digital ecosystem thrives on an array of data sources operating across servers, desktops, mobile devices, and online services. The old paradigm of static and traditional access control can longer sufficiently handle the sophisticated cybersecurity challenges we face today.

This realization, coupled with the surge in data breaches and cyber-attacks, has pushed organizations towards Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) – a security model that eliminates all implicit trust through continuous verification of users and devices.

However, the successful implementation of ZTA hinges heavily on one critical piece: the policy engine.

A policy engine is a software component in charge of evaluating and implementing policies within an organization or application. Acting as a gatekeeper, it can grant, deny, or revoke access to the resource, ensuring that users and devices only get access to what they require – nothing more, nothing less.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advocates for a policy engine that applies dynamic authorization to implement an attribute-based access control (ABAC) model. This methodology offers enhanced scalability and security by factoring in additional information (attributes) during the authorization process.

So, how does it work? The policy engine takes in real-time attributes of access requests or data updates and applies predefined policies to make informed decisions or initiate automated actions. These policies span an extensive range of domains, from security and compliance to business rules. Crucially, these policies can be updated effortlessly without making significant changes to the underlying system or app.

By bringing a unified approach to policy enforcement, the policy engine allows organizations to maintain, update and enforce complex rules consistently across diverse systems and apps. It provides the flexibility to make changes to access rights on the fly via policy without complex customization and manual procedures.

In conclusion, if there is no unified Policy Engine, ZTA will be impossible to implement. Hence, as we step into the future of data security, let’s engage in a broader conversation about the Policy Engine’s role in ZTA. What are the requirements behind a good policy engine? How do you believe we can further evolve this concept? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

If you’re interested in learning about NextLabs’ approach to the unified policy engine, click here to find out more.