Access Management

What is Access Management?

Typically delivered as part of an Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution, access management ensures that organizations allow users the necessary resources when needed, while restricting unauthorized users. Used to protect both on-premises and cloud-based applications, services, and IT infrastructure, they control who can log into an enterprise system and what actions they can perform once inside. 

Authorized users may include:

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Third parties
  • APIs
  • Application keys
  • Cloud containers

Enterprise IT resources may include: 

  • Endpoint devices
  • Data
  • Services
  • Sensors
  • Applications
  • Controllers

Stages of Access Management

Quality access management ensures that your IT environment is protected, staff can efficiently carry out tasks, and collaboration with customers and third parties is unhindered. To get it right, consider the following steps: 

Establish appropriate policies and processes

First, you must decide who should access which systems, data, or functionality, why, and under what circumstances. From there, you can identify which actions or processes may require multiple users to perform or authorize them. It’s essential to recognize that access management refers to internal systems and any website or online service where staff might sign up with an organizational identity. 

You should ensure that you have non-disclosure agreements in place, and can revoke access from any third parties as and when needed. Similarly, it’s helpful to set up a “joiners, movers, and leavers” policy so you can change access for movers and revoke it for leavers. You should also remove or suspend any temporary accounts as soon as they are no longer needed. 

Encourage good password practices

To prevent password guessing or theft, you should set up Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on all accounts in the organization. It’s also essential to establish a password policy with a good balance of security and usability – encourage the use of password managers or Single Sign-On (SSO) technology  to lower the risk of poor password hygiene and account compromise.

Protect privileged accounts

It would be best to employ a tiered model for administrative accounts, creating divisions between administrators based on what resources they manage, and only using those full- privilege accounts when essential. You should also prevent administrators from using the same account for day-to-day business, versus activities requiring administrative privileges. Regular review of account privileges will also ensure that user accounts and system processes have only the privileges that are required to perform their tasks.

Run security monitoring

To help identify suspicious behavior, you should log and monitor all authentication and authorization events that might indicate a potentially compromised account. It’s also important to design your access control systems so that it’s easy to monitor account usage and access, associating all actions to the user or process that performed them. 

Types of Access Management

Once you’ve followed the steps above, you can consider what type of access management you need to employ, and when. These are known as access control decisions. The three main types are:

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

DAC systems, the most common type of access control, assign access rights based on administratively defined rules, which then use security policies, tools, and automation to determine which subsequent users should have access to what information without manual intervention. Essentially, granting access rights is determined by comparing the user identity against the asset. 

Role Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC systems grant or deny access to data or applications based on job function instead of user identity. They allow security teams to enforce separation of duty and non-repudiation and give organizations the power to decide who does what at scale. 

Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC)

ABAC systems allow for the most control over access management. Users must be granted consent to access assets and explain why they need that access. This system specifies the conditions that would give access to an asset and adds accountability to access control. 

The Future of Access Management

Access management is already a fundamental part of any organization’s security framework and will only grow in importance as attack rates continue to rise. As accountability and individual responsibility for data breaches come further into focus, we will likely see ABAC systems more widely adopted in the coming years. Similarly, access management will be further entrenched as a vital element of enterprise security as more businesses migrate to the cloud, as third-party data storage is generally more vulnerable to attack than its on-premises counterpart. 

For more essential cybersecurity definitions, check out our other blogs below:  

21 Essential Cybersecurity Terms You Should Know

40+ Cybersecurity Acronyms & Definitions

Return to Cybersecurity Glossary

Access Management
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