Getting Started With Attribute-Based Access Control

    Data security is one of the toughest challenges for businesses worldwide. With ever-growing cyber-attack incidents and the increasing number of connected devices, it is understandable why maintaining the best possible security posture is important for every company.

    One step you can take to secure your most valuable business assets is to evaluate how you handle access to applications, databases, big data, and APIs. As the number of users and functions grows, legacy methods of one-dimensional access management begin to fail.

    Integrating an attribute-based access control (ABAC) approach is a great way to enhance the layered security strategy. Here we explain how to plan for the enforcement of this new way of access control.

    Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

    Based on policies derived from data attributes and based on business and security rules, ABAC implements enterprise-wide user access. This type of contextual access control often referred to as externalized fine-grained authorization, helps companies cope with complex issues related to insider threats, national security, compliance, privacy, and various business requirements.

    ABAC is a model that can handle today’s IT world’s complexities, where legacy role-based access controls are unable to adapt to the constantly changing IT environment. It works by using attributes to create policies that provide contextual, risk-aware access control. Unlike RBAC, which is strictly identity-centric, ABAC can define authorization in terms of multiple aspects, e.g., the resource being accessed and the user, the relationship between the resource and the user, the actions, and contextual information such as device, time, risk, and location. Attributes may include organizational responsibilities, teams, and place, time of day, balance of account, risk rating, and much more within an organization.

    Getting Started With ABAC: Implementation Tips

    As is the case for any solution that can cover your whole company, companies need to plan, both technically and organizationally, for the transition. A few areas to consider are listed here:

    Identify stakeholder roles: Access control affects all departments of an organization, and you have the ability to lock down sensitive assets through an ABAC model and open up cooperation if necessary. It has been designed to allow access to the same information for a variety of individuals. Getting all of the internal teams on board is a key step when implementing an ABAC application.

    Document business and security scenarios: Because ABAC is predominantly a security solution, you would like to make sure that the numerous security and business applications that you actually run are accounted for in preparation. You will also be able to streamline the existing security framework and enforce more complicated policy authorization and compliance regulations.

    Review ABAC-supporting technology needs: Part of ABAC’s success is due to its ability to centralize access control and help organizations make and scale changes rapidly over time. As part of the initial implementation, an existing infrastructure audit, and scoping of basic necessary additions to the current stack would help ensure a smooth transition. For example, ABAC fits well with federated identity solutions and seamlessly integrates with API gateways.

    Select applications to be secured first: As part of the test process, you would like to select a pilot application to get the project started to test and benchmark the results. The application you choose will set the standard that you apply going forward and reflect immediate ROI in streamlining the enterprise-wide implementation.

    Determine functional and non-functional specifications: Realistic requirements will direct the implementation of your ABAC solution. The organizational parameters include regulatory and business regulations for who gets to see what, where, and when. IT leaders will have the most to say in terms of non-functional requirements. In general, this covers items such as hosting, preparations for disaster recovery, and general usability.

    Teams involved in the initial rollout also see problems in getting the whole organization onboard. But once everyone is onboard, the benefit of ABAC can be seen in ROI relating to risk mitigation, decreasing time-to-market, and freeing up time to work on the functionality of the application for your developers. Companies will be able to benefit more quickly from ABAC while also ensuring that the most important assets are secured by planning the project with preparation and the right mindset of teams.

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