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1.2: Access Control

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    Access Control

    Once a user has been authenticated, the next step is to ensure that they can only access the information resources that are appropriate. This is done through the use of access control. Access control determines which users are authorized to read, modify, add, and/or delete information. Several different access control models exist. Here we will discuss two: the access control list (ACL) and role-based access control (RBAC).

    For each information resource that an organization wishes to manage, a list of users who have the ability to take specific actions can be created. This is an access control list, or ACL. For each user, specific capabilities are assigned, such as read, write, delete, or add. Only users with those capabilities are allowed to perform those functions. If a user is not on the list, they have no ability to even know that the information resource exists.

    ACLs are simple to understand and maintain. However, they have several drawbacks. The primary drawback is that each information resource is managed separately, so if a security administrator wanted to add or remove a user to a large set of information resources, it would be quite difficult. And as the number of users and resources increase, ACLs become harder to maintain. This has led to an improved method of access control, called role-based access control, or RBAC. With RBAC, instead of giving specific users access rights to an information resource, users are assigned to roles and then those roles are assigned the access. This allows the administrators to manage users and roles separately, simplifying administration and, by extension, improving security.

    Comparison of ACL and RBAC (click to enlarge)

    1.2: Access Control is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by David T. Bourgeois.

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