What is Role-Based Access Control? How does RBAC Work?

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    The corporate world has moved past the times when IT admins could secure their endpoints by enforcing measures at the network level for devices that operated within the physical boundaries of a workplace and their specific role within the organization. With remote working picking pace and being considered the new normal, businesses are inclining toward security strategies that suit modern business needs and can no longer stick to the data security practices that once worked.

    Role Based Access Control
     Role-based Access Control: Definition, Benefits, and More

    A role-based access control system helps IT admins unburden themselves from the continuous efforts required to manage individual employee permissions on enterprise devices, apps, and content while reinforcing their security clearance in terms of remote access.

    What is Role-Based Access Control

    Role-based access control (RBAC) is an access management system in which administrators grant access-based permissions to individual users based on their roles and responsibilities in the organization. This security system allows administrators to minimize the risk of unauthorized access to email, business resources, and networks by specifically assigning and restricting users with restricted access to certain business applications and information. RBAC is generally implemented by enterprises in conjunction with zero-trust security policies to reinforce their security posture, especially in times of enterprise mobility.

    How Does RBAC Work

    With RBAC, company IT admins can create specific roles based on the common responsibilities of an employee or the tasks the employee is expected to perform. Every role then gets assigned a set of permissions and access rights. This works particularly well in favor of company IT admins of large enterprises that have hundreds and thousands of employees.

    In large organizations, several people have the same roles, and RBAC allows IT admins to grant or deny access to a specific set of permissions and access privileges to this group of users based on their roles. Here’s an example of RBAC: all doctors in a healthcare facility may be given the right to access patient medical records, but hospital receptionists or ambulance drivers may not be given the same right.

    To put it simply, RBAC grants permissions to multiple people based on their role assignment and not on their individual preferences. These permissions hold rights to what employees can and cannot access, which works in favor of corporate security.

    Difference between RBAC vs. ABAC vs. ACL vs. PBAC

    Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC), Access Control Lists (ACL), and Policy-Based Access Control (PBAC) are different methods of managing access rights in information systems. Each approach has its unique characteristics and is suited for different scenarios. Below is a comparative table explaining the key differences:

    FactorRBAC (Role-Based Access Control)ABAC (Attribute-Based Access Control)ACL (Access Control Lists)PBAC (Policy-Based Access Control)
    DefinitionAccess rights are granted based on the user’s role in the organization.Access is determined by evaluating attributes (user, resource, environment).Specifies which users or system processes are granted access to objects.Access is granted based on policies that evaluate attributes or roles.
    Key ElementRoleAttributes (User, Resource, Context)User or Group IDs and Object NamesPolicies (Dynamic Rules)
    FlexibilityModerate; based on predefined roles.High; attributes can be combined in numerous access control methods.Moderate; specific to each object and user.High; policies can be complex and adaptive.
    ScalabilityGood for large organizations with well-defined roles.Highly scalable; suitable for dynamic and diverse environments.Less scalable; requires individual entries for each user-object pair.Scalable; policies can be applied broadly or narrowly.
    ComplexityModerate; depends on the number of roles and hierarchies.High; due to the complexity of attributes and their relationships.Low to Moderate; straightforward but can become cumbersome with many entries.High; requires sophisticated policy definition and management.
    Use Case ExampleCorporations with defined job functions (e.g., HR, IT, Manager).Environments needing dynamic access control (e.g., cloud services, IoT).File systems or databases with specific user access to resources.Organizations needing context-aware and dynamic access control.
    Control GranularityCoarse-grained; based on roles.Fine-grained; based on detailed attributes.Fine-grained; specific to each user and object.Fine to Coarse-grained; depends on policy detail.
    MaintenanceRelatively easy if roles are stable.Potentially complex due to many attributes.Time-consuming for large systems.Requires ongoing policy updates and revisions.
    Compliance & AuditingEasier to audit due to the role-based structure.Complex due to the vast number of attributes.Straightforward but can be labor-intensive.Varies; can be complex due to dynamic policies.

    Understanding these differences is crucial for determining the most appropriate access control mechanism for your specific organizational needs, especially in a SaaS environment like Scalefusion. The choice often depends on the level of control access, flexibility, and scalability required, as well as the nature of the resources being protected.

    Benefits of RBAC

    1. Enhances Security

    RBAC allows IT admins to extend permissions that satisfy the minimum accessibility requirements of the user, just enough to do the job. With this, every user has access to only a limited set of data that they need to work with. This minimizes the risk of data breaches and also reduces the surface of external attacks since the hacker will only be able to gain access to the limited resources that the user is permitted to access.

    2. Improves Operational Efficiency

    Since employee permissions are based on their roles, every employee is granted the exact set of need-to-use mandatory access privileges, adhering to the principle of least privilege. This relieves IT admins from constantly managing and modifying individual rights and permissions. It also streamlines operations for employees and ultimately reduces the need for employees to constantly contact the IT department to manage access rights or permissions. Employees can quickly get started with their tasks without spending a lot of time on access rights to kick in.

    3. Simplifies Remote Administration

    RBAC supports remote working environments perfectly and helps IT admins reduce efforts on managing and assigning countless permissions. With RBAC, IT admins can create a list of permissions for every role, which are then automatically assigned to anyone entering the organization in that particular role. These roles need not be modified every time an employee leaves the organization. You can simply remove the employee from the role to withdraw his assigned access privileges. Whether new employees join your organization or existing ones get promoted or resign from the organization, the roles take care of their permissions without requiring IT admins to intervene.

    4. Improves Compliance

    Businesses are required to satisfy various regulatory compliance requirements to experience unhindered continuity and customer trust. Compliance standards like EU GDPR, HIPAA, SOC 2, etc., help businesses manage their sensitive corporate data and avoid legal troubles through a structured approach to access management. IT admins can monitor access patterns, trace changes made, and leverage improved visibility of the activities of their employees to ensure strict compliance, making it easier to meet regulatory requirements.

    5. Helps in Cost Optimization

    IT admins can use RBAC to relieve themselves of tons of mundane IT management responsibilities, which can help them focus on more critical aspects. Businesses can save costs of hiring a large IT team and also save time and effort on security administration. Restricting users to fewer resources also helps businesses conserve bandwidth, data, and storage and reduce license costs for various tools.

    Applying RBAC to Your Scalefusion MDM Dashboard

    Scalefusin MDM lets you leverage an RBAC system to simplify the management of the diverse roles and permissions to the dashboard. You can either choose from a list of predefined roles extended to you by Scalefusion or create your custom roles.

    Scalefusion offers predefined system roles, including Group Admin, Device Admin, and Co-Account Manager, with read-only or read-and-write access permissions.

    With Scalefusion, you can:

    • Use predefined system roles: You can name the role and control the visibility of various features, allow access that empowers the user to read and make updates to the feature, or simply grant ‘read-only’ permissions.
    • Create custom roles: You can create a new role from scratch and apply it to the chosen devices. You can customize the visibility, ‘all access’, and read-only permissions based on your management needs.
    • Customize predefined roles: You can select a predefined system role of your choice and make a copy to further customize specific permissions therein.
    • Assign a role to admin: You can modify the role of existing admins, add new admins, or even remove admins and set expiration dates for admin roles.

    Closing Lines

    RBAC helps businesses confidently extend workplace flexibility to their employees by reducing the security risks involved in enabling remote access. You must first identify your business needs and define permissions to leverage precise control of your employees’ access rights for successfully implementing role-based access control.

    Schedule a live demo with our product experts to explore more about Scalefusion’s Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) capabilities.

    Shambhavi Awate
    Shambhavi Awate
    Shambhavi is a Senior Content Writer at Promobi Technologies with prior experience in commercial writing, creative planning, product cataloging, and content strategizing. She is a "Biotechnologist turned writer" and believes that the inception of great ideas happens over coffee.

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