What is Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)?

One of the most effective methods of identity and access management (IAM) is attribute-based access control or ABAC. ABAC follows a similar model to role-based access control (RBAC) but offers significantly improved authorization management.

Whereas RBAC determines access according to a user’s singular role, ABAC leverages many attributes associated with users and objects. The shift from one to many variables dramatically increases the flexibility and granular level of management.

Tools4ever’s HelloID provides automated, attribute-based provisioning and access control.

Attributes, Business Rules, & Entitlements

HelloID relies upon user attributes, business rules, and entitlements to provide sophisticated provisioning automations and ABAC. Attributes include all of the various pieces of identity data that make up a person within HelloID (e.g., name, title, department, manager).

HelloID provides an attribute mapper, which is used when configuring its connection to your organization’s “source system” (e.g., HR system). The attribute mapper links fields and variables from your source system to HelloID. The mapped attributes determine which business rules apply to a given user (e.g., all users receive an Active Directory account). The applicable business rules determine the entitlements users receive, such as accounts in various systems and permissions in the file system.

HelloID detects and syncs attribute changes made within your source system. Detected changes trigger automated provisioning processes for all users, rapidly setting up new employees and ensuring all access rights remain up-to-date throughout their employment.

ABAC Over RBAC

ABAC allows for attributes to be modified to suit a user’s needs without necessarily creating a new role for them. These characteristics are exactly what make ABAC a more polished, more granular system than the Role-Based Access Control model (RBAC).‍ Numerous attributes may be applied to a person or object, whereas a user typically falls into a singular role defined by their job title.

ABAC provides organizations with dynamic, contextual provisioning and access. ABAC models allow organizations to increase management beyond narrowly defined and restrictive roles. This results in more accurate provisioning and less ongoing efforts to manage access to resources that employees require but falls outside of normal user role configurations.

Attribute Examples

Attributes mapped from the source system include variables such as:

  • Name
  • Department
  • Position
  • The employee’s manager
  • Location
  • Contract start and end dates
  • Cost center
  • And other potential values

ABAC: Unique Provisioning for Unique Users

HelloID provisions IT resources for every user based on their attributes. Each attribute affects the accounts created and the scope of access permissions granted for connected systems, applications, file storage, and network objects (e.g., printers).

The power of ABAC stems from extensive and granular management capabilities, flexibly provisioning users according to their unique set of attributes. Instead of role-specific entitlements and permissions that require configuration updates or ad hoc provisioning (and associated service desk tickets that needlessly increase IT’s workload), ABAC offers user-specific execution for all of your employees across your entire organization.

Once attributes are mapped to HelloID from your source system and your provisioning configurations are established, ensuring correct access for every user requires minimal ongoing management efforts. Automated provisioning leveraged with ABAC reclaims substantial IT bandwidth, eliminating hours of manual management and data entry.

What are the Benefits of ABAC?

Benefits of attribute-based access control for restricting unnecessary network access within an organization include:

Increased Efficiency

Once mapped and configured, attributes drastically cut down ongoing management efforts while ensuring every user retains the IT resources their job requires. Instead of updating roles or addressing specific user provisioning needs that fall outside normal scenarios, attributes provide user-specific results for every employee.

Automating these processes with a solution such as HelloID cuts down on delays and data errors when user permissions are initially assigned or changed.

Compliance Control

Leveraging attributes strengthen your control over compliance efforts by managing appropriate access to systems, applications, and data. Compliance efforts already require determining or limiting who has access to what and when based on their job’s function in the organization. By using mapped attributes and automated processes, ABAC keeps identity and access management consistently in line with compliance needs.

Insight & Visibility

HelloID’s mapped attributes and logged processing allows administrators to readily compile reports and view information regarding who may access what. This insight may be used to refine identity management further, create audit trails, identify and respond to security or compliance risks, and more.

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