Upgrading Your Business Access Control Policies

What is an access control policy?

Much like who has access to your front door key affects access to your home; a security policy manages security risks, physical access and the level of authorisation required to access data and resources associated with your business.

A policy statement does this by detailing the guidelines and rules that manage access privileges to information systems, computers and specific locations. This enables a business to log, track and audit access to these areas and thus control by allocation or limit access to sensitive information.

However, unlike an access control register that provides a list of users and access levels, an access control policy details with the measures and procedures in place that the business will use to control access.

What are the benefits of an access control policy?

Access control policies have two primary goals. Firstly, to minimise the risk of unauthorised access to sensitive data or information from external and internal sources.

Secondly, to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the business, its systems and information. Let’s take a look at this in more detail below.

What access policies address

A good alarm system can easily protect your physical business assets.

But how do you preserve the integrity of non-physical assets such as information or sensitive data?

This is where a good access policy comes in, as it provides clear guidelines on who can access the business’s physical location, information or data and when or where they can access it.

Access can be granted based on an individual’s role in the business. For example, a contractor wouldn’t require access to your accounts system, and in the same vein, your financial accountant wouldn’t need access to the basement or storage of the building.

By providing different levels of access, the risk exposure is limited, making it easier to manage and maintain a good level of security.

Why have an access control policy?

Every business needs to protect its information assets. Cybersecurity has long been the buzzword on the proverbial block due to the high volume of data businesses now have in their control.

Consider the damage to a business’s reputation and integrity should its information systems suffer a cyberattack, allowing unauthorised individuals to access information?

A robust access control policy can define the processes employees should follow to ensure good password management and, in the event of an employee leaving the company, de-registration (removal of access to company systems).

However, that’s as far as it goes unless the policy is supported by excellent access control models that provide the structure to ensure the processes are followed. An example of this is as follows: The access control policy provides the rules around how a password should be set up, but it’s the actual setting up of the password that is the procedure.

This is governed by the control model, which details and limits the levels of access rights based on an individual’s role in the business. This limitation of user access is also known as the POLP (principle of least privilege) and can enhance cybersecurity and reduce data breaches in the workplace. Thus making an access control policy a security must-have for all businesses.

What are the benefits of access control?

Access control systems in the workplace provide security for a business’s physical and cyber-based assets. Controlling access to specific areas or data using usernames, pins, and passwords ensures that only those with appropriate access obtain information relative to them.

Let’s take a look at the benefits in more detail:

  • Strengthens physical security

Access control systems can grant privileged access or role-based access control to specific areas for employees. For example, employees issued with a keycard or the code for code protected entry points can enter business areas that relate to their role in the business. This authentication to enter a physical space ensures that unauthorised individuals don’t have access to sensitive areas.

  • Timekeeping

Access control can also be used as a form of timekeeping, allowing business owners visibility of when employees arrive and leave. This record can be used as the basis on which employees are paid.

  • Reduces theft

Access control also ensures you are aware of who is on your premises at all times. While this allows you to monitor staff, visitors and contractors, it can also prevent intruders from entering and stealing costly equipment or stock. In addition, any internal theft would be reduced as the list of possible suspects could only be those with access to the area in which the theft occurred.

  • Enhanced access permissions

Facial recognition or biometric information can be used in conjunction with access control software to gain access to the business premises rather than using a standard key or fob. This reduces the risk of lost keys which not only causes access issues but also poses a significant security threat should the keys end up in the wrong hands.

  • Protects against cyber attacks

Using cyber-based sentry protections and access control programs can protect your business from ransomware, spyware, adware, and other malware threats. It does this by controlling user access levels and the data they wish to retrieve.

  • Promotes a safer environment for remote access

Remote access has become one of the top business requirements today, with many employees accessing corporate IT platforms from home or while on the move. As a result, some companies may use multi-factor authentication to ensure their security requirements are met.

However, robust access controls also ensure your business is safe while doing so because it’s what happens to that data after it’s taken from the system that counts. Therefore, a good access control policy should include controls regarding the download, printing, safe disposal and storage of company documents.
Promotes trust and prevents fines

The provision of robust access controls works toward protecting and preventing the loss of client and customer personal data. This goes a long way to encouraging customer confidence, in today’s world where data is easily sold for vast amounts of money. Furthermore, data breaches can result in large fines which can be financially detrimental to a business.

  • Protects online presence and system

Access control programs can protect your websites and operating system from crashing. Such a crash can hamper productivity and sales. In addition, strong access control systems can also block risky URLs or websites the company doesn’t want employees to access.

What should be included in an access control policy?

If you are new to the world of access policies, knowing what to include in them can be somewhat confusing. Below we have detailed exactly what to include in an access policy document so that it is beneficial to your business.

The Scope

This is the ‘who’ and ‘what’ part of the policy.

Firstly, who does the policy relate to?

Depending on your business type, it might relate to all employees, specific users, customers or potential contractors on site. Keep in mind that the policy can relate differently to each group; for example, the rules for a contractor would look very different to those that apply to your employees.

Next, what is included in the policy?

For example, sensitive data held by your company might require you to have specific information security policies in place. Once you have established the ‘who’ and ‘what’ aspects of your policy, the next step is to determine the ‘where’ and ‘how’ of the scope. This part is governed by the scope and manages where and how the policy applies.

For example, if an employee is using a private computer and accessing non-work related information on their own time, the access control policy does not apply. But should the employee be at work, using company equipment and accessing company information, then the access control policy applies.
The primary goal of the scope is to determine and clarify to which users the policy applies. Therefore, it should be clear and concise without room for misinterpretation and subsequent disregard.

Purpose

Every access control policy requires a reason for its existence. This should be made abundantly clear to ensure that anyone reading the policy is in no doubt as to why it was created. In most cases, the purpose or reason for a control policy is to protect sensitive information or resources.

The purpose of most control policies is to help reduce risk by setting specific guidelines around system permissions, preventing unauthorised access requests. Furthermore, a control policy should preserve and provide protection to the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of a business’s management system. This includes the systems, applications and networks.

Ensuring the policy is clear in its purpose will help readers to understand the risks involved, their role concerning the policy and encourage them to ‘buy into’ the procedure. Remember, an access control policy is only as good as those who are physically implementing it!

Responsibilities

Once the scope and purpose of the policy have been determined, it’s now time to decide who will be responsible for implementing it. This is usually broken down into two types of responsibility, those who own or oversee the policy and those who implement it.

Policy owners draw up and oversee the policy; they are responsible for it and any required updates or adjustments. Access control policies are living documents that should evolve and adjust according to the business’s needs or requirements. When a change occurs, the policy owners should review the document, obtain the required authorisation to make the necessary changes and advise those implementing the procedures.

Those who implement the policy can be whole teams, individuals, or different business sections. This separation of duties works well because it prevents one individual or team from having total control of your access control system.

When the responsibility is shared, it prevents breaches in the protocol, promotes accountability and ensures teams work together so that the correct procedures are followed. Primarily it prevents unnecessary errors and individuals from acting alone who may look to break the rules intentionally.
Control policies can also detail how controls are physically implemented and who approves access to systems and account changes.

Gain control over your buildings and facilities

As a business owner, it’s imperative to have control over your buildings and facilities from a physical point of view and a data and information point of view.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, thieves don’t only come through the window at midnight; sometimes, they’re on the other side of your internet connection waiting for a password breach or, worse, sitting in a disgruntled employee’s seat!

Our recipe for true business security utopia is an excellent physical security system, coupled with topnotch access control policies supported by uber access control systems. If this isn’t what your business security looks like, then now is an excellent time to get this sorted!

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