Access control refers to the practice of regulating and managing access to resources or systems, typically in the context of information technology and physical security. It involves determining who is allowed to access what, when, and under what conditions. Access control is critical for maintaining security, privacy, and confidentiality in various domains, including computer systems, networks, buildings, and data.
Subjects: Subjects are entities that seek access to resources. In the context of computer systems, subjects can be users, processes, or applications. In physical security, subjects can be individuals or devices.
Objects: Objects are the resources that subjects want to access. In IT, these can be files, databases, servers, or even network segments. In physical security, objects can include rooms, buildings, or specific assets.
Access Rights: Access rights specify what actions a subject is allowed to perform on an object. These rights can include read, write, execute, delete, and more.
Policies: Access control policies define the rules and criteria that determine how access is granted or denied. These policies can be based on user roles, permissions, time of day, location, and more.
Authentication: The process of verifying the identity of a subject, typically through usernames, passwords, biometrics, or other authentication methods.
Authorization: Once a subject is authenticated, authorization determines what actions they are permitted to perform based on their role, permissions, and the access control policy.
Access Control Lists (ACLs): These are lists that specify the permissions that different subjects have for specific objects. ACLs are often used in file systems, network devices, and databases.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): RBAC is a common access control model where permissions are associated with roles, and users are assigned to these roles. It simplifies access management by grouping users based on their job functions.
Discretionary Access Control (DAC): DAC allows the owner of a resource to determine who can access it and what level of access they have. This is often seen in personal files and some legacy systems.
Mandatory Access Control (MAC): MAC enforces access control based on labels or security classifications. It’s commonly used in government and military environments.
Physical Access Control: In addition to digital access control, there are systems and methods for controlling physical access to buildings and areas. This includes keycards, biometric scanners, and PIN codes.
Single Sign-On (SSO): SSO allows users to access multiple systems or applications with a single set of credentials, reducing the need for multiple logins.
Access control is an integral part of information security and is implemented to ensure that sensitive information remains confidential, systems are protected from unauthorized access, and compliance requirements are met. Various access control mechanisms can be tailored to the specific needs and security requirements of an organization or system.