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6.3.2: Access Control

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    84145
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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. Two of the more common are: the Access Control List (ACL) and Role-Based Access Control (RBAC).

    An information security employee can produce an ACL which identifies a list of users who have the capability to take specific actions with an information resource such as data files. Specific permissions are assigned to each user such as read, write, delete, or add. Only users with those permissions are allowed to perform those functions.

    ACLs are simple to understand and maintain, but there are 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.

    The following image shows an ACL with permissions granted to individual users. RBAC allows permissions to be assigned to roles, as shown in the middle grid, and then in the third grid each user is assigned a role. Although not modeled in the image, each user can have multiple roles such as Reader and Editor.

    Comparison of ACL and RBAC
    Comparison of ACL and RBAC

     

    Sidebar: Password Security

     

    So why is using just a simple user ID and password not considered a secure method of authentication? It turns out that this single-factor authentication is extremely easy to compromise. Good password policies must be put in place in order to ensure that passwords cannot be compromised. Below are some of the more common policies that organizations should use.

    • Require complex passwords. One reason passwords are compromised is that they can be easily guessed. A recent study found that the top three passwords people used were password123456 and 12345678.[1] A password should not be simple, or a word that can be found in a dictionary. Hackers first attempt to crack a password by testing every term in the dictionary. Instead, a good password policy should require the use of a minimum of eight characters, at least one upper-case letter, one special character, and one digit. 
    • Change passwords regularly. It is essential that users change their passwords on a regular basis. Also, passwords may not be reused. Users should change their passwords every sixty to ninety days, ensuring that any passwords that might have been stolen or guessed will not be able to be used against the company.
    • Train employees not to give away passwords. One of the primary methods used to steal passwords is to simply figure them out by asking the users for their password. Pretexting occurs when an attacker calls a helpdesk or security administrator and pretends to be a particular authorized user having trouble logging in. Then, by providing some personal information about the authorized user, the attacker convinces the security person to reset the password and tell him what it is. Another way that employees may be tricked into giving away passwords is through e-mail phishing. Phishing occurs when a user receives an e-mail that looks as if it is from a trusted source, such as their bank or employer. In the e-mail the user is asked to click a link and log in to a website that mimics the genuine website, then enter their ID and password. The userID and password are then captured by the attacker. 


    This page titled 6.3.2: Access Control is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by David T. Bourgeois (Saylor Foundation) .

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