Unauthorized trespassing and breaches of physical locations are a problem for any running business. Physical access control systems are instrumental in preventing such breaches. They are fundamental for businesses aiming to protect sensitive areas and valuable assets and ensure the safety of their staff. However, understanding the range of physical access control methods and how to apply them can be daunting. This covers the various types of access control systems and offers a template for creating an effective access control plan.
Understanding Access Control
Access control refers to the strategies and systems used by organizations to manage, monitor, and restrict who can enter or use certain spaces within a specific area. This could range from a single room in a building to an entire multi-site campus. A physical access control system is vital for protecting valuable assets and sensitive areas, and ensuring the safety of staff members. These systems can employ a variety of methods, including door locks, gate systems, biometric scanners, RFID card systems, and more, to provide a robust and secure method of controlling access to these areas.
Types of Access Control Systems
Diverse organizational needs necessitate a wide range of access control models. Different types of access control models operate on their own rules and principles, making them suitable for different contexts.
Discretionary Access Control (DAC)
Discretionary Access Control (DAC) presents a highly flexible system where the authority of a particular area or resource has the discretion to decide who can access it. For instance, in a small business setting, the business owner might use a DAC system to regulate access to certain areas. These could be spaces like a stockroom containing expensive equipment, an executive suite housing sensitive documents, or a server room. This model enables the owner to control who can enter these spaces, whether it be certain employees, management, or third-party contractors. DAC is ideal for organizations that need to frequently change access permissions, given its inherent flexibility.
Mandatory Access Control (MAC)
Mandatory Access Control (MAC) is a rigid, non-discretionary access control model, typically used in organizations that require high levels of security and strictly defined access control. The MAC model functions on an established hierarchy, where access to areas or resources is restricted based on clearance level. A classic example is a military facility, where MAC could restrict access to specific areas or buildings to certain ranks or personnel only. In a corporate setting, MAC could limit access to sensitive areas such as data centers or financial offices, creating clear boundaries of access based on an individual’s role.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), also known as Non-Discretionary Access Control, assigns roles to individuals, and access is granted according to these roles. This model is particularly effective in larger organizations with distinct departmental functions. A clear example can be seen in a hospital setting. Doctors, given their role, would have more access privileges to patient wards or medical storerooms than janitorial staff. Conversely, maintenance personnel might have access to utility areas and machine rooms, which would typically be off-limits to medical staff. The RBAC model allows for streamlined access control management that aligns with an individual’s job responsibilities.
Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)
Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) is a dynamic model that controls access based on various attributes, including user role, time, and location. Unlike the RBAC, which strictly controls access based on role, ABAC provides additional layers of control. For example, a company might use ABAC to limit access to sensitive areas like R&D labs to specific roles, within specific hours, and only allow entry from certain secure access points. This access control model is well-suited for organizations with high-security needs and varied employee schedules.
Rule-Based Access Control
Rule-Based Access Control models regulate access based on a set of predefined rules established by the system administrator. In essence, it controls access by employing ‘if-then’ rules. For example, a company might use rule-based access control to restrict building access outside of regular business hours. In addition to time-based rules, it could include rules like ‘if an individual’s access card is lost, then access is denied until the card is replaced’. This access control model allows organizations to set up specific rules that cater to their unique security requirements.
Creating an Access Control System Plan
Once you’ve understood the various access control models, you can determine which will serve your organization best. This understanding forms the foundation of an effective access control plan, which should include the following.
Identifying Physical Security Needs
Start by determining the physical security needs of your organization. Are there particular rooms, buildings, or areas that need to be secured? Assessing the needs will guide whether you employ DAC, MAC, RBAC, ABAC, or rule-based access control systems.
Assigning Access Levels
Establish clearly defined roles within your organization and assign corresponding access rights. For instance, general staff may have access to common areas and their respective departments, while management could have additional access to executive offices and meeting rooms.
Choosing an Access Control Model
Determine the most suitable access control model based on your organization’s physical security needs. If multiple models are used—for instance, RBAC for general staff and ABAC for IT personnel—ensure this is clearly outlined in the plan.
Describe the procedures for executing your selected access control model. This should involve detailing the installation of door access systems, issuance of access cards or tokens, setting up of the access control software, and any other relevant procedures.
Regular Auditing and Maintenance
Establish a schedule for regular audits to verify that the access control system is functioning as intended. This also ensures that any anomalies or breaches can be detected and addressed promptly. A plan for routine maintenance and system updates should be included here to keep the system running smoothly.
Training and Compliance
Outline plans for training staff to correctly use the access control systems. This involves educating them on the proper usage of access cards or tokens, reporting lost items, and understanding the implications of non-compliance with the system rules.
In a Nutshell…
With the ever-evolving threat landscape, implementing robust access control has never been more critical. Understanding the different access control models and how they can be applied in various contexts is the first step to securing your business. Use this guide as a starting point to build an effective access control plan that keeps your assets secure, your employees safe, and your business compliant.