What is an Access control system?
16th May, 2017

What is an Access control system?

The term “Access Control System” actually refers to systems officially referred to as “point monitoring and access control systems” because they not only control electronic locks on doors, control access on elevators and elsewhere, but also monitor alarms. In other words Access control is a way of limiting access to a system or to physical or virtual resources i.e a security technique that can be used to regulate who or what can view or use resources in a computing environment.

There are two main types of access control: physical and logical. Physical access control limits access to campuses, buildings, rooms and physical IT assets. Logical access limits connections to computer networks, system files and data.

In computing, access control is a process by which users are granted access and certain privileges to systems, resources or information.

In access control systems, users must present credentials before they can be granted access. In physical systems, these credentials may come in many forms, but credentials that can't be transferred provide the most security. 

For example, a key card may act as an access control and grant the bearer access to a classified area. Because this credential can be transferred or even stolen, it is not a secure way of handling access control.

A more secure method for access control involves two-factor authentication. The person who desires access must show credentials and a second factor to corroborate identity. The second factor could be an access code, a PIN or even a biometric reading.

Access control models have four flavors:

  • Mandatory Access Control (MAC) – This model gives only the owner and custodian management of the access controls.
  • Role Based Access Control (RBAC) – This model provides access control based on the position an individual fills in an organization
  • Discretionary Access Control (DAC) – This model is the least restrictive model compared to the most restrictive MAC model. DAC allows an individual complete control over any objects they own along with the programs associated with those objects.
  • Rule Based Access Control (RBAC or RB-RBAC) - Rule Based Access Control will dynamically assign roles to users based on criteria defined by the custodian or system administrator. For example, if someone is only allowed access to files during certain hours of the day. 

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