Access Controls Can Stop a Breach Before It OccursStop Unauthorized Access that Could Lead to a Security or Privacy Breach
The best way to stop a bank robbery is by preventing the criminal from ever entering the bank. That, in a lot of ways, is what access controls are all about. If a user can’t gain access, by default, they can’t exploit that access. And, by creating these series of defenses, an organization is protecting itself from the myriad of cyberattack attempts it may incur.
What are Access Controls
Access control can be any method that creates precision and control over when and how a person can exercise their access rights. The goal of access control is to create friction between a user and their access, and stop any unauthorized access that could lead to a security or privacy breach.
Think of access governance as the perimeter fence, and access control as the guards that find and close any gaps in that fence.
There are a handful of types of access controls, each offering a different method to limit access:
- Fine-grained access control such as access notifications, access approvals, time-based access, and an access schedule. These controls limit access to an external factor, like a supervisor approving access or a limited timeframe for the access.
- Zero Trust Network Access. ZTNA removes any implicit trust from users (external or internal) and instead applies the same kinds of controls to every single user, removing any and all access privileges. This method ensures that every single access, routine or critical, is valid.
- Multi-factor authentication. Like the fine-grained access controls mentioned above, this method also relies on an external factor. This control is incredibly common, to the point that Facebook, your bank account, and probably even your personal email account have started to require it. It confirms the user’s identity by asking that they validate access through two forms. Be it a password and SMS code, or a keycard swipe and a Pin, or a variety of other methods.
- Privileged credential management. Vaulting credentials, manually managing them, or even obfuscating them so literally no user knows that the password is, is a simple way to prevent credential theft and control access.
Why Are Access Controls Important?
Creating strong access policies within an organization is the first step in a path toward better cybersecurity, but if no one is enforcing those policies, they won’t do much to actually stop a breach. Think of access governance as the perimeter fence, and access control as the guards that find and close any gaps in that fence.
In addition, access controls contribute to a decentralized approach to cybersecurity, one that focuses on individual access points and user access rights instead of just a castle-and-moat strategy. We’ve seen recently how the “hack one, breach many” method succeeds, so it only takes one access point to cripple an entire system. Hackers are utilizing decentralized approaches to breach a system, so an organization’s security needs to be just as nimble and thorough. Putting access controls on every access point is like putting a guard outside every door, not just the front one. If the bank robber makes it past the lobby doors, the guard is still there waiting outside the vault.
Third parties, which are an essential component of any organization, are also an inherent risk. They’re full of external users, and naturally, far less is known about them than is known about an internal user like a full-time employee. Hackers know this, and as happened with SolarWinds and Kaseya, they like to take advantage of it and use third parties as a sort of tunnel to other organizations. Employing access controls here, would stop that leap between organizations and remove the threat third parties carry with them.
Investing in access controls, even if it’s a small investment like multi-factor authentication for all users or an enterprise wide solution like VPAM or PAM solution can go far in protecting your organization in a rapidly changing cybersecurity environment.