Last Updated on June 27, 2024

When you handle restricted information, complex technology or highly valuable items, you need to ensure only the appropriate people can view and manage them.

Knowing the differences between the types of access control in security can help you design a security system that makes sense for your organization.

What Is Access Control?

Access control is an authorization and authentication system that confirms a user’s identity and grants or denies facility or network access according to predefined rules.

Access control technologies rely on a centralized database of all the registered people in an organization. You can also add external members, like vendors and clients, to your database if they need access to your facilities.

When someone attempts to access a specific area, the system compares their credentials against their database profile to verify their identity. It then grants or denies access depending on that person’s authorization.

Access Control Models and Methods

Here’s a quick rundown of the most common access control technologies in use today. 

1. Discretionary Access Control

DAC is a simple access control technique where the leader of a specific area or department assigns permission at their discretion.

Unlike other forms of access control, DAC lacks a central user database. Instead, each owner creates a list of all the users who have permission. When an authorized person attempts to enter a protected area, the system verifies their identity against this list and grants access.

The advantages of DAC include the following.

  • Flexibility: Object owners have complete control over their areas within your organization and can adjust user permissions as they see fit, which helps keep operations moving efficiently.
  • Low maintenance: The intuitive user interface makes it quick and simple to add and update user profiles.

The most notable drawback to DAC is its security risk. Because owners can change permissions however and whenever they like, there is always a chance that they will abuse their privileges and grant access to people who shouldn’t have it.

2. Mandatory Access Control

Also known as managed access control, MAC grants access to users on a need-to-know basis through a system administrator rather than an organizational leader. 

This configuration prevents abuse of access privileges, which is why security experts consider MAC to be the most secure access control method available. It’s common in organizations that handle confidential and classified information, such as government, law enforcement and military facilities.

Some of MAC’s most significant advantages include the following.

  • High security: System administrators are the only users who can define and update access permissions, which makes MAC ideal for managing access to classified information.
  • Granularity: You can apply various access levels to different users to ensure everyone has the specific resources they need to complete their tasks — nothing more. 

However, MAC has some drawbacks.

  • Rigidity: Unlike DAC, MAC is inflexible and non-discretionary. Users must request access to new areas and wait for approval, which can cause operational bottlenecks.
  • Cost: MAC systems often cost significantly more to implement and maintain than DAC systems.
  • Maintenance: System administrators must continuously update permissions as the organization’s needs change. For example, an administrator must immediately revoke access from terminated employees to prevent them from causing trouble.

3. Role-Based Access Control

RBAC is a type of mandatory access control that assigns different permission levels to specific job titles. Employees have access to everything they need and cannot access anything that doesn’t pertain to their role within the organization.

You can also control access at a granular level based on the specific resources employees may need within an area. For example, a church might grant full sacristy access to priests but limit access to altar servers to prevent theft.

Benefits of RBAC include the following.

  • Efficiency: RBAC systems automatically update permissions whenever someone’s role changes, like promotions or terminations.
  • Ease of use: RBAC systems are intuitive and easy to implement, minimizing downtime.
  • Compliance: RBAC can help organizations demonstrate their compliance with industry and government regulations.

While RBAC is highly effective as a stand-alone solution, pairing it with another method can help you create an even more secure system.

4. Rule-Based Access Control

RuBAC adds an extra layer of security to your access control system by allowing you to set rules establishing when and how a user can gain access to an area. Some examples of rules include:

  • Time of day
  • Location
  • Behavior patterns
  • Roles
  • Company policies

Like RBAC, RuBAC automatically changes a user’s permission based on whether their access attempt meets the predefined rules. It’s a highly flexible, efficient system that’s ideal for large organizations with many employees.

Complexity is the most noteworthy drawback of this method. Because RuBAC offers so much specificity, it can be challenging to set up and maintain without the appropriate infrastructure.

5. Attribute-Based Access Control

ABAC, RBAC and RuBAC work similarly. Unlike the other two, which use job titles and external factors to determine an individual’s access, ABAC uses personal attributes like these.

  • Resources: Users who own or need the restricted resources based on their active projects or job title should have access.
  • Subject: Users should be able to access areas and resources relevant to their departments, groups, security clearance levels and other attributes.
  • Action: In advanced systems, erratic behavior can cause users to lose access.

Like RBAC and RuBAC, ABAC is highly flexible and easy to use after implementation, especially when the system can recognize changing attributes in real time.

However, it’s complex and resource-intensive, which can drive up costs and make installation more challenging.

6. Identity-Based Access Control

IBAC is similar to other types of authentication in that it compares a user’s input against their profile to make sure they are who they claim to be. The distinction between ABAC and IBAC is that IBAC verifies user identity through biometric factors rather than physical or logical ones like ID card readers and password screens.

Because biometrics are unique to each person, stealing someone’s identity is nearly impossible without causing them severe harm. Therefore, IBAC is highly secure — and because you can’t lose or forget your access credentials, it’s also easy to use.

Cost is the primary drawback of IBAC. Biometrics are still a developing technology, and installing the necessary infrastructure is a hefty investment. 

Learn More About Access Control Systems From Prestige Security Solutions

Is it time to upgrade your business’ security? You can count on the experts at Prestige Security Solutions to design and install a custom access control system for your property while respecting your budget. 

Protect your business from intruders with an advanced, intuitive and customized access control solution. Book a free consultation with our team to discuss your security needs.