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Why Dynamic Authorization is a Big Deal in Data Security

If you’re unfamiliar with dynamic authorization, it could very well be the biggest little secret you’ll hear regarding data security. In an article from 2022, Gartner found that the fast pace of technological change, organizational priorities, user expectations, and business opportunities and risks require more flexible identity and access management. With the boom of cloud apps, mobile devices, Big Data, and productivity tools, the limitations of legacy access control systems highlight a need for businesses to adapt effectively to rapidly changing environments.

Passing of the Baton

Since the mid-1990s, role-based access control (RBAC) has been the de facto standard for managing access to business-critical data, especially that which was stored in massive enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. Sensitive HR, financial, and planning data, like social security numbers, payroll numbers, and inventory forecasts are managed within these ERP applications.

Attribute-based access control (ABAC) has emerged as the successor to RBAC, as the former is better equipped to deal with the complexities of today’s IT landscape. In a recent article, Deloitte suggested businesses move towards defining permissions more granularly and dynamically with the help of ABAC, rather than relying on RBAC’s static pre-defined roles assigned to users. Backing ABAC is dynamic authorization, where authorization and access rights to your organization’s network, applications, data, or other sensitive assets are granted dynamically in real-time based on attributes.

These attributes could be derived from users, data, and environment metadata. For example, policies can incorporate attributes such as citizenship, department, geographic location, device type, file type, and the action being performed (e.g. uploads, downloads, edits, etc). This provides flexibility in controlling access to sensitive data, especially given the distributed nature of today’s business.

Case in point: global collaboration is increasingly the norm to get things done. Supply chains are spread out across the globe. 

Exchanging information with colleagues and partners is essential for seeing projects through to completion. In doing so, you have to be mindful of the potential security risks of sharing confidential or sensitive data.

Protecting the Crown Jewels​

Across industries, companies share and make information available to the global workforce and business partners. While sharing business-critical information is essential to conducting business, it’s no longer possible to contain it within the network perimeter. Data is increasingly being stored in the cloud and on mobile devices and is also shared with business partners. Business stakeholders want and expect simpler and faster access to data at any time and from any location.

In any industry, from manufacturing, aerospace & defense, pharmaceuticals, or high tech, protecting trade secrets can be critical to maximizing profit margins, retaining market share, or simply avoiding bad publicity. That’s why it’s so important NOT to overlook technologies such as dynamic authorization. It’s that “behind the scenes” technology you take for granted –Like the battery pack for electric cars, facial recognition software on phones, and contactless transactions.

Simplified Administration​

ABAC and dynamic authorization take the pain and stress out of managing role-based policies (i.e., RBAC). With RBAC, any time a new variable is introduced (such as a new geographical location or a new project assignment), an organization needs a new set of roles to account for the change. Given the complex ecosystem of users, devices, clouds, partners, customers, and supply chains that characterizes today’s companies, the number of roles can increase exponentially, making it extremely difficult to manage on an ongoing basis.

With ABAC, hundreds or thousands of roles can be replaced by just a few policies. These policies can be managed centrally across all applications and systems, providing a single pane of glass for all attributes of an organization. Centralized management makes it easy to add or update policies and quickly deploy them across the enterprise.

Moreover, these policies are managed externally from the protected application (aka “Externalized Authorization Management”), so they can be modified without requiring code changes or application downtime. This enables organizations to react quickly to changes in business or regulatory requirements, greatly increasing agility and flexibility and enhancing overall data protection.

The dynamic authorization has benefits to risk management as well. By tracking and logging user activities and data access events in real-time, security and compliance teams can gather analytics on user behavior and access patterns to identify suspicious activities that might indicate a potential security breach.

Happy Stakeholders Across the Board

In summary, dynamic authorization brings a wide range of benefits to the table. From protecting sensitive data to keeping compliance officers happy to simplifying IT administration, dynamic authorization best positions companies to succeed in an increasingly globalized and collaborative business environment.

To effectively comply with various standards and industry regulations, businesses require integrated, cost-effective information risk management solutions that can manage access and protect data across multiple applications. NextLabs’ user-friendly solutions assist businesses in identifying risks, reinforcing staff training, preventing infractions, automating operations to eliminate mistakes, and auditing data usage, all while ensuring compliance with relevant legislation and standards.

To learn more, read our white paper on how to implement an ABAC-based data security strategy.

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