Access control is all about determining which activities are allowed by legitimate users, mediating attempts by users to access resources, and authenticating identity before providing access.
While many companies think carefully about the models and mechanisms they’ll use for access control, organizations often fail to implement a quality access control policy. To optimize the use of your access control systems, it’s essential to develop policies and procedures surrounding access to your physical premises, information systems and network, and applications.
What Do These Access Policies Address?
So, what should a good access control policy address? These policies should manage who is able to access information (or a physical location), when, and where. By defining your own policy that limits access, your company will be better able to maintain physical, information, and data security from unauthorized access.
Providing different levels of access rights to your employees, temporary employees, consultants, business partners, and contractors can ensure you limit risk exposure, making it far easier to monitor and keep up security.
With excellent access policies in place, your organization can monitor, track, manage, audit, and log access to physical premises, information systems, and computers. When you have these standards in place, you’ll have a consistent security posture that enables you to preserve data availability, integrity, and confidentiality while offering appropriate and authorized user access. These initiatives also help to communicate and raise awareness with your employees about how critical data security is to your organization.
Safety, defense, healthcare, and financial organizations all have their own compliance standards that must be met with access control policies. If you’re not in any of these categories, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your company isn’t at risk. Complacency can be costly, no matter what type of business you’re in.
The Fundamentals of a Good Access Control Policy
When you create or modify your organization’s security procedures and policies, you’ll need to address many different areas. Here’s a look at some of the fundamentals of a good access control policy.
- Compliance Statements – All users that are able to access your information system should be required to sign a compliance statement before you provide them with a log-on ID. Along with originally signing the compliance statement, it’s a good idea to confirm each year that your users agree to and understand all your procedures and policies.
- Acceptable Use Policies – Before providing employees with user IDs, you’ll also want to have an acceptable use policy in place that users must sign. It’s designed to remind employees and other users that they must avoid any type of inappropriate use that could expose your organization to legal issues, compromise network services and systems, or virus attacks.
- Remote Access – Define acceptable methods of connecting to your company’s networks remotely. Since many employees like to telecommute and some bring their own device assets while traveling or working on site, having a policy for remote access is essential.
- Entity Authentication – If you don’t have documented and well-defined policies for access to your organization’s systems and network, it’s essential to get them in place. It’s a good idea to include unique user identifiers for authentication, such as password, tokens, personal ID numbers, and biometric identification.
- Dealing with Non-Employees – Along with having non-employees sign acceptable use policies, you may also want to require your internal department head to provide written approval before these individuals are provided with access to physical premises, computers, or information systems.
- Access Management and Need-to-Know – Ensure that access to functions, applications, premises, systems, and information is only granted based upon the privileges that an employee or other individual requires to perform their job.
Access Control Policies for Your Physical Premises
Although you may spend a lot of time thinking about your access policies for data, your network, and systems, it’s also essential to think about access control to your physical premises as well.
Access to your organization’s physical premises isn’t a right – it’s a privilege. Just as you regulate access to networks and systems or information, you need to control physical access with user accountability and responsibility as well. Some of the security levels you may want to establish include:
- Basic Security Level – This security level only allows access to the areas that are left unlocked during normal business hours. However, ID access is required after hours to keep these areas secure.
- Enhanced Security Level – These areas require ID access all the time. Premises are usually monitored with video cameras, security personnel, and/or electric or mechanical locks.
- High Risk Security Level – At this level of security, these areas may require accompaniment by someone who is authorized or another advanced means of security.
At all levels of security, biometric control solutions can be applicable with customizable settings that allow you to define the level of security you want to enforce.
The Use of Biometrics Technology in Access Control
Biometrics technology has become increasingly popular as a part of access control systems for identification and authentication. Not only is biometrics being used to help control access on physical premises, but it’s even being used to secure networks, systems, and data, as well.
Many biometric characteristics and technologies are in use for access control. Just a few of the human characteristics that have been studied and implemented today include:
- Facial recognition
- Iris scan
- Voice analysis
- Retinal scan
- Hand scan
- Handwriting analysis
- Hand vascular
Deploying biometric technology as a part of your access control system can improve your security in many ways, such as:
- Eliminating the need for manual badge checks
- Reducing costs associated with cards and keys
- Identity can’t be left behind, lost, or forgotten by carriers
- Keep credentials from being passed to someone else
- Providing a secondary level of identification and authentication
- Minimize your company’s security risk profile
- Know for certain who is entering your facility or accessing your systems.
The use of biometrics offers significant security gains, but it’s also important to handle biometric data securely to ensure privacy of all users. As with other parts of your access control policy, it’s essential to address how you’ll protect collected biometric data so your employees and other users can feel confident that their personal information is going to be kept safe.
It’s not enough to simply have the latest access control system in place – you must also have policies and procedures that lay out how the system will be used, who’s able to access information, when the information can be accessed, and where. By defining your own access control policy, your company will be well armed to maintain physical security and the safety of data and information from unauthorized access.