Business Security Technology

How an Access Control List Can Protect Your Business

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Most successful companies use access control lists (ACLs) to organize their networks. While these lists are incredibly useful, they can also be challenging to understand and intimidating for users. Learn about access control lists below and use them to your advantage.

Access Control List Explained

An access control list is a set of rules assigning various people in any organization different access levels to documents and information. ACLs are used by companies to create levels of access privileges. In practice, it means that some users are granted administrator capabilities, while others can only use basic user level access to programs and files.

Dark Reading also attests to the benefits of an access control list,

“ACLs are straight-forward, conceptually simple ways to limit traffic to and from known (or suspected) malicious addresses and to clear traffic to and from addresses known to be acceptable.”

Access Control List Types

1. Mandatory Access Control

This is a pretty rigorous ACL that was created for the government. While it is exceptionally secure, it can also be ambiguous and costly. If a company does use mandatory access control, it is normally in conjunction with the following four ACLs.

2. Discretionary Access Control

Users with this ACL are able to view who is accessing their data. It is particularly important in terms of social networks as it allows people to alter their content’s visibility. This is much simpler to use than mandatory access control, but it also makes it easier for you to give the wrong users access accidentally.

3. Role-Based Access Control

This ACL is typically used by businesses that have to share data with specific departments as it allows you to grant specified access depending on someone’s role.

4. Rule-Based Access Control

Users are able to either grant or deny access depending on previously defined rules, meaning that users are unable to change anything within the system.

5. Attribute-Based Access Control

This allows for specific policies that combine features for users, resources, and objects. It includes things like names, positions, departments, and IP addresses, and many more.

Why Use an Access Control List?

There are many benefits to using an access control list, including privacy, security, as well as organization for any corporation that controls a large amount of data.

One of the key functions of an ACL is that it allows you to prevent unauthorized individuals from getting their hands-on confidential information or services. While employees must access certain types of information, it can be even more important to keep that same data away from prying eyes.

This is commonplace for medical institutions like hospitals, where it is vital to keep patient information secure and private. An access control list is the perfect way to control which individuals have access to this type of data.

According to Healthcare IT News, “While role-based access control (RBAC) has uses in every industry, healthcare systems, in particular, can benefit from a proper implementation of these solutions. The potential to save not only exists by reducing possible fines in HIPAA, and Sar-Box audits, but also from prospective lawsuits if sensitive patient data is ever exposed or allowed to be accessed by the wrong personnel.”

Businesses that have communications with third-party clients will also tend to use ACLs as it will limit their client’s access to private company data. In turn, it prevents outside individuals from accessing company data that needs to remain confidential.

The problem with access control lists is that if changes aren’t made on a regular basis, there will be a lack of ACL changes needed to keep systems operating safely. In order to address such issues, it is imperative that the appropriate procedural controls are taken. By not enforcing such security policies, ACLs are worthless. What’s more, they can create a false sense of security. 

Final Words

Simply put, ACLs are an extra layer of security that enables companies to safeguard their information. However, it is incredibly important to remember that ACLs only work to better security and privacy when they are carefully regulated and monitored.

About the author


Sheza Gary

Sheza Gary has been a Project Strategist since 2009 and also involved in the launching of startups and tech companies in New York for over 5 years. She has keen interest in writing her own experiences about business plans and upcoming business supporting technologies. She loves public speaking.