RULE-BASED ACCESS CONTROL (RuBAC): Definition and Best Practices

Rule based access control

Access control is a collection of techniques, strategies, and policies that allow individuals to gain access to a company’s computer, network, and data resources. RBAC (also known as RuBAC) allows or restricts access based on rules, ensuring that people who can access a company’s computing infrastructure have access to exactly the resources they require, no more and no less.
If that seems a little hazy, it’s because the concept is broad. This guide will explain the concept of rule-based access control RBAC and when businesses might use it to protect themselves.

What Is Rule-Based Access Control (RBAC or RuBAC)?

As the name implies, rule-based access control RBAC is a system based on predefined conditions for granting or denying access to various users.

Most of the time, these rules are based on the characteristics of individual users. This is also referred to as attribute-based access control (ABAC).

Rules can also be based on other contextual values. Factors relating to previous actions, for example, or the object’s current stage in a specific workflow. You could even create rules based on system variables such as the current time of day or server load.

This type of access control entails configuring different conditions based on the existing attributes of users. These are then used to automatically assign permissions to individuals.

The system then employs boolean logic to determine whether each condition is true or false, and either assigns permissions or moves on to the next nested condition.

Rules can be built around multiple attribute combinations or just one. For example, a very simple rule-based system may only consider a user’s current location when determining permissions.

In a more complex system, you might consider their department, length of service, current device, or any other attributes or environmental factors in addition to their location.

How Does Rule-Based Access Control RBAC Function?

An IT department establishes high-level rules based on the specifics of what, how, where, and when someone attempts to gain access under RBAC. Each resource is associated with an access control list or ACL. When someone attempts to use a given resource, the operating system checks the ACL to see if the attempt follows all of the rules for access to the resource.

The “rule” component of RBAC refers to the constraints on when, how, and where access is granted. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Everyone on a network has an IP address, which the network uses to identify locations. A rule could be that only people with IP addresses in a specific geographical range, such as the region where the accounting team works, are allowed to use the corporate accounting system. It could be even more finely controlled, such as allowing people at specific addresses to access accounts payable but not accounts receivable.
  • Allowances and restrictions can be linked to ports, which act as specific network doors. Only requests on the appropriate ports would be regarded as potentially valid. One port, for example, could be linked to a facility that accepts document uploads from remote locations. In that case, a request to upload into another area of the network may be denied.
  • Certain types of access may be restricted to specific times, such as during standard business hours. No one would be able to access those computing resources outside of those time slots. Time constraints help to keep criminals out of systems during off-hours when there are fewer security experts available and on guard.
Read Also: ROLE-BASED ACCESS CONTROL RBAC: Definition, History, and Examples
  • Someone who requires access to sensitive records may be given additional credentials that they must use in all future access attempts. Alternatively, they may have a limit on how many times they can use a particular resource in a week, or they may have a timeout so that permission is only temporary.
  • As much as RBAC can be used to allow access, it can also be used to prevent access, whether within the business’s infrastructure or to external resources. For example, the company may not want any employees to use video-streaming apps during work hours, or it may block all email (unlikely, but a user can dream).

The main thing to remember is that RBAC governs access context. While the emphasis is on company employees, the same concepts can apply to a company that provides controlled access to some resources to customers or business partners.

Tip: Rule-based access control RBAC is essential for larger organizations with multiple roles and varying levels of expertise. Certain aspects of the system should be off-limits to anyone who does not require it to complete their job for security and efficiency reasons.

Advantages of Rule-Based Access Control RBAC

For a business, rule-based access control RBAC has numerous advantages:

  • You can better regulate legal compliance issues by standardizing and controlling the context of resource access.
  • RBAC increases security by enforcing necessary resource usage limits. This can make it more difficult for external criminals to attack your company’s computing infrastructure.
  • An RBAC system that is properly designed not only improves security but also regulates network usage. You could restrict the use of resource-intensive processes and software to days and times when demand is lower. For example, you could schedule complex management reports or marketing analytics to run only in the middle of the night, when there is enough processing power.
  • RBAC can automatically apply necessary restrictions without involving IT or support personnel. Instead of requiring your IT staff to manually track usage and remember to revoke privileges later, you can automate changes and set additional permissions for a limited time in unusual circumstances.
  • Instead of providing overly broad access to too many people, you can be as detailed as you want in how you control access.
  • Only administrators have the authority to change the rules, reducing the possibility of mistakes.

Disadvantages of Rule-Based Access Control RBAC

RBAC, like everything else, has limitations.

  • Configuring detailed rules at multiple levels takes time and requires some preliminary work from your IT staff. You’ll also need some kind of ongoing monitoring to ensure that the rules function properly and don’t become obsolete.
  • Your employees may find the access control system cumbersome and inconvenient. When working outside of the usual patterns becomes necessary, you or another administrator will need to modify a rule or provide a workaround.
  • When your IT staff must reprogram a specific rule for an unusual circumstance and then switch it back, the need for regular changes can become a burden.
  • RBAC does not consider specific relationships between resources, people, operations, and other aspects of operations or infrastructure due to its reliance on rules. The necessary structure of rules can become extremely complex without additional control mechanisms.

A rule-based access control system can provide important additional security depending on your company’s needs. However, it may not be sufficient on its own. Your company will also require expertise to set up and maintain the rules, as well as to adapt or change them as needed.

Implementing Rule-Based Access Control

When it comes to implementing rule-based access control and considering rule-based control best practices, there are several important steps to take:

  • Examine current access rules – Examine both the rules that apply to specific access points and the general rules that apply to all access points. Determine any high-risk areas that lack specific access rules. Because security vulnerabilities are constantly changing and evolving, this should be done on a regular basis.
  • Analyze “what-if” scenarios – Identify potential scenarios that may necessitate the application of additional rules to reduce risk.
  • Update or create rules based on the assessment. Set new rules or update existing rules to increase security levels.
  • Avoid permission conflicts by comparing rules with permissions set by other access control models to ensure that no conflict exists that would incorrectly deny access.
  • Document and publish rules –Publish the most important rules and communicate any changes to ensure that all employees understand their access rights and responsibilities. While employees may not need to know the specifics, it is critical that they understand how policy changes may affect their day-to-day operations.
  • Conduct regular reviews – Conduct regular system audits to identify any access issues or security gaps. Examine any security issues caused by lax access control and, if necessary, revise rules.

Rule-Based vs. Role-Based Access Control

Security administrators configure and manage both models. Employees cannot change their permissions or control access because they are mandatory rather than optional. However, there are some significant differences between rule-based and role-based access control that can help determine which model is best for a given use case.

Operation

  • Rule-based models define rules that apply to all job roles.
  • Permissions in role-based models are based on specific job roles.

Purpose

  • Employee access levels are not determined by rule-based access controls, which are preventative in nature. They instead work to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Role-based models are proactive in that they provide employees with a set of conditions under which they can gain authorized access.

Application

  • Rule-based models are generic in the sense that they apply to all employees, regardless of their role.
  • Role-based models apply to employees on an individual basis, based on their roles.

Case studies

Role-based models are appropriate for organizations where roles are clearly defined and resource and access requirements can be identified based on those roles. As a result, RBAC models are appropriate for organizations with a large number of employees, where setting permissions for individual employees would be difficult and time-consuming.

Rule-based operating systems work well in organizations with fewer employees or where roles are fluid, making it difficult to assign ‘tight’ permissions. Rule-based operating systems are also essential for organizations with multiple areas requiring the highest levels of security. A role-based model may not provide adequate protection on its own, especially if each role covers different levels of seniority and access requirements.

Hybrid Models

Rule-based and role-based access control models are complementary in that they take different approaches to achieve the same goal of maximizing protection. Role-based systems ensure that only authorized employees have access to restricted areas or resources. Rule-based systems ensure that authorized employees have access to resources in the right places and at the right times.

Some organizations believe that neither model provides the necessary level of security. To deal with different scenarios, security administrators can use a hybrid model to provide both high-level protection through role-based systems and flexible granular control through rule-based models.

Administrators can grant access to all employees through the role-based model in areas with lower security requirements, such as entrance lobbies, but add a rule-based exception denying access outside business hours.

Administrators can assign permissions to specific roles in higher-security areas, but use rule-based systems to exclude employees in a role who are only at the junior level.

A hybrid model like that combines the advantages of both models while improving overall security posture.

Simplify Door Access Control Management

  • Permissions can be easily and securely configured using user roles, attributes, and custom rules.
  • Schedule access to all doors, gates, turnstiles, and elevators.
  • Remote unlocking of any door or activation of a building lockdown
  • With touchless Wave to Unlock, you only need one mobile credential for each entry.
  • For high-security areas, built-in biometrics, MFA, and video verification
  • Using a remote, cloud-based access control software, you can change access permissions at any time.

Role-Based and Rule-Based Access Control vs. Attribute-Based Access Control

Security administrators in a role-based system grant or deny access to a space or resource based on the employee’s role in the business.

Administrators control access in an attribute-based system based on a set of approved attributes or characteristics. Although an employee’s role may be one of their attributes, their profile will generally include other characteristics such as membership in a project team, workgroup, or department, as well as management level, security clearance, and other criteria.

Because the administrator only needs to define a small number of roles, a role-based system is quicker and easier to implement. The administrator of an attribute-based system must define and manage multiple characteristics.

Using multiple characteristics, on the other hand, may be advantageous in certain use cases because it allows administrators to apply a more granular form of control.

Attribute-based vs. Rule-based Access Control

Administrators in a rule-based system grant or deny access based on a set of predetermined rules.

In contrast, attribute-based access control (ABAC) models evaluate a set of approved attributes or characteristics before granting access. Administrators can create a diverse set of characteristics that are tailored to the specific security requirements of various access points or resources. The primary distinction between these two types is the information and actions used to grant or deny access. Attributes are still typically linked to personal information about the employee, such as their team, work status, or clearance. Working hours, door schedules, devices, and other similar criteria are frequently referenced in the rules.

Both models enable granular access control, which is advantageous for organizations with specific security requirements. Both rule-based and attribute-based models can be combined with other models, such as role-based access control. Because administrators must define multiple rules or attributes, both models can be time-consuming to implement and manage. Rules and attributes, on the other hand, provide greater scalability over time.

Conclusion

Two of the most important models for determining who has access to specific areas or resources within a business are the rule- and role-based access control. A security administrator can manage access at a high level or apply granular rules to provide specific protection for high-security areas by implementing the most appropriate model.

Access control based on rules and roles enables businesses to use their security technology in a truly customized manner. By determining who has access to specific areas and resources within a business, a company can implement the best model and manage access at a high level, as well as apply granular rules to provide more robust protection to high-security areas.

While both models provide effective security and significant benefits, the effort required to develop, implement, and manage access security policies varies. As an added bonus, rule-based and role-based models complement each other and can be used in tandem to provide even greater access control security.

Rule-Based Access Control FAQs

What is difference between rule-based and role-based access control?

Employee access levels are not determined by rule-based access controls, which are preventative in nature. They instead work to prevent unauthorized access. Role-based models are proactive in that they provide employees with a set of conditions under which they can gain authorized access.

What is the rule in access control?

A domain, an object type, a life cycle state, and a participant are all assigned to a set of permissions by an access control rule. An access control rule specifies a user’s, group’s, role’s, or organization’s rights to access objects of a specific type and state within a domain.

References

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