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What Does a Good Access Control Policy Look Like And Why is it Important?

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Access control is paramount for good cybersecurity, whether this relates to a small business or a larger corporation. A smaller business generally means one that employs below 10,000 employees, whereas a larger multinational corporation can employ hundreds of thousands of personnel. Adequate data security, referred to in the industry as information security, is a key part of modern company management for any modern business dealing with a large amount of corporate/sensitive data. Billions of users are online today, and millions of organizations have a digital presence which would be an out-of-control cybersecurity situation if it were not for access control policies. This especially rings true if corporate data can be profitable for cybercriminals, or nation-states. Therefore, this data must have a significant factor of satisfactory cybersecurity measures in place, particularly when that concerns the safety of data like financial and corporate data. Furthermore, a good access control policy consolidates the safety of customers and other parties that operate with and rely on the organization and its network. In implementing a solid access control policy, a large amount of responsibility falls on company CISOs (Chief Information Security Officer) to take care of all of this and bear the potential liabilities if this is not done properly. 

What is Access Control Policy?

An access control policy (ACP) concerns authorization, access, and privilege elements, which is a critical process to ensure the safety of information. Access control can also span to the physical realm meaning access to buildings and secure areas, which can be equally as important as the former. Going back to logical ACP that pertains to digital cybersecurity frameworks, simply put, this form of access control is a multi-stage security filter that determines which activities are allowed on a system, and how and if personnel get access to data. 


Accessing resources in a corporate environment is a sensitive issue, due to the risks associated with user error and cybercrime which can lead to catastrophic data breaches, as well as disrupt compliance with data protection and privacy laws. The proper mediation of information security, with a solid access control policy, ensures that an organization operates normally and safely and complies with cybersecurity frameworks, laws, and regulations. 


Access control policies can differ from organization to organization depending on how they are implemented and what they are trying to achieve. Most systems today require additional and complex steps of security that go beyond the simple one-time password authentication of yesterday. A tough, modern access control policy usually includes several mechanisms, models, and policies. These factors control who gains access to the usage of corporate resources, via layers of permissions, security checks like biometric scans, security tokens, and more. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is also popular with access control policies because this model of unique identity authentication greatly reduces the possibility of security leaks. 


Access control can be deconstructed in the following way as a process;


  • Authentication
  • Authorization
  • Access
  • Management
  • Audits and monitoring


There are also several types of access control policy models such as;


  • Discretionary Access Control or DAC (user-controlled access settings) 
  • Role-Based Access Control or RBAC (Commonly used user role assignment)
  • Mandatory Access Control or MAC (for high-security applications)
  • Attribute-Based Access Control or ABAC (permissions based on attributes)


Finally, a real-world breakdown of a typical access control policy looks like this;


  • A purpose
  • Authority
  • Applicability
  • Policy
  • Management
  • Enforcement
  • Duties
  • Least Privilege
  • Login attempt criteria
  • System use notification
  • Device lock policies
  • Session criteria
  • Remote access
  • Wireless access
  • Mobile device access control
  • External system use
  • Publicly accessible content


  • Exemptions
  • Definitions

How a Good Access Control Policy Helps With Cybersecurity Posture

A solid access control policy is critical to minimize cybersecurity risks such as data breaches and human error. The more dangerous cybercrime circulates the internet, the more important it becomes to scrutinize data, information, and network security, especially when critical corporate, medical and financial data is concerned. Also, the more that data circulates across several new platforms, via emerging technologies, across hundreds of millions or billions of users, the more need there is for a strict security approach to contain the chaos. Secondly, depending on which industry an organization operates in, access control may be required by the following globally established cybersecurity compliance standards;


  • HIPAA (medical)
  • PCI DSS (finance)
  • SOC 2 (third-parties)
  • ISO 27001 (information security)
  • GDPR (EU general data protection law)
  • CCPA (California 


Proactive asset and identity management is a key part of a solid corporate cybersecurity strategy these days (in addition to a risk management strategy.) To avoid terrible cybersecurity situations such as the famous Equifax breach that caused pandemonium, where the personal data of over 100 million individuals was exposed and is one of the most notorious cybersecurity scandals in history, an access control policy is a good start for any organization.