Access Control

Definition of Access Control

Access control is a security technique that regulates who or what can view, use, or interact with a resource, such as data, systems, or physical locations. It involves identifying, authenticating, and authorizing individuals or groups based on predetermined rules and policies. Its primary purpose is to protect information, resources, and systems from unauthorized access and potential misuse.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Access Control” would be: /’æksɛs kən’troʊl/

Key Takeaways

  1. Access Control is the selective restriction of access to resources, ensuring that only authorized users or systems can access specific data, services, or environments.
  2. There are various access control models, including Mandatory Access Control (MAC), Discretionary Access Control (DAC), Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), and Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC), each with its own set of rules and policies for managing access.
  3. Implementing effective access control requires a combination of physical, administrative, and technical measures, such as user authentication and authorization, strong password policies, and regular auditing and monitoring of system access.

Importance of Access Control

Access Control is important in the realm of technology because it ensures the security, integrity, and privacy of sensitive data and resources within a system or network.

By implementing access control mechanisms, organizations can restrict unauthorized access, safeguarding valuable information from potential breaches or malicious activities.

This concept plays a crucial role in preventing unauthorized individuals from tampering with or stealing information, as well as maintaining regulatory compliance, ensuring proper separation of duties, and preserving the overall functioning of digital systems.

Additionally, access control not only helps protect valuable assets but also instills a sense of trust and reliability among users, clients, and stakeholders in a digital ecosystem.


Access Control serves as a critical component within the realm of information technology (IT) security, effectively safeguarding valuable digital resources such as data, systems, and networks. The primary purpose of access control is to manage and regulate the level of access and authority granted to individual users within an organization.

This is achieved through the enforcement of policies and identification mechanisms, ultimately ensuring that unauthorized users are denied entry, while those with the appropriate clearance can routinely engage with the secured materials. In essence, access control establishes a systematic barrier, providing organizations with the means to uphold data confidentiality, maintain information integrity, and promote overall system availability for authorized users.

To fulfill this purpose, access control can be implemented in various forms, such as Mandatory Access Control (MAC), Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), or Discretionary Access Control (DAC). Each methodology relies on a distinct set of rules and protocols to define access rights and authorization levels for users attempting to interact with sensitive data or systems. By doing so, access control not only helps to minimize the risk of data breaches or malicious attacks but also enforces accountability for user actions within the secured environment.

As technology continues to evolve and businesses become increasingly reliant on the digital landscape, access control emerges as a fundamental means of securing both the technology infrastructure and the sensitive information it houses, safeguarding the strategic interests of businesses, their employees, and their customers.

Examples of Access Control

Door Access Control Systems: In office buildings, schools, and other facilities, electronic door access control systems are used to manage entry and exit permissions. These systems use technologies such as swipe cards, key fobs, or biometric scanners (e.g., fingerprint or facial recognition) to grant or deny access to specific parts of the building. The system can be programmed to allow access only for authorized individuals during specific hours and can maintain a log of entry and exit times.

Security Gates with License Plate Recognition: Many parking lots and gated communities use access control systems with automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) technology. Cameras are installed at the entrance, and they automatically capture and read the license plates of entering and exiting vehicles. If the license plate matches an authorized vehicle in the system database – e.g., the car belongs to a resident or employee – the gate opens automatically and grants access.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) in Online Services: Access control is not limited to physical spaces; it is also crucial in securing digital assets. Two-factor authentication is a widely-used method of access control in online services. In addition to a standard username and password, users are required to verify their identity through another method like receiving a text message with a unique code or by using a third-party authenticator app. This additional layer of security helps protect user accounts from unauthorized access.

FAQ: Access Control

What is access control?

Access control is a security technique that regulates who or what can view, use, or access resources in a computing environment. It helps in protecting the system from unauthorized users, ensuring that only authorized users can access or modify resources as needed.

What are the types of access control?

The main types of access control are: Discretionary Access Control (DAC), Mandatory Access Control (MAC), Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), and Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC). Each type offers a unique approach to managing access according to different requirements and scenarios.

What is Discretionary Access Control (DAC)?

Discretionary Access Control (DAC) is an access control model that allows the owner of a resource to determine who can access it. The owner can grant or deny permissions to specific users or groups based on their discretion.

What is Mandatory Access Control (MAC)?

Mandatory Access Control (MAC) is a more restrictive access control model that employs a hierarchy of classifications and clearance levels to restrict access to resources. Users and resources are assigned clearance levels, and access is granted only if the user’s clearance level matches or exceeds the resource’s classification.

What is Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)?

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is an access control model based on the roles users have within an organization. Instead of assigning permissions to individual users, permissions are assigned to specific roles, and users can be granted access to resources based on their role.

What is Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)?

Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) is a flexible access control model that uses attributes, such as user attributes (e.g., job function, department, location) and resource attributes (e.g., classification, ownership), to determine access rights. Access is granted if a user’s attributes meet the specified access control policy.

How are access control models chosen for an organization?

The selection of an access control model for an organization depends on multiple factors, including the organization’s size, structure, security requirements, and regulatory demands. It is essential to carefully review the organization’s needs and select an access control model that offers the most effective and efficient approach to managing access while maintaining security.

Related Technology Terms

  • Authentication
  • Authorization
  • Biometrics
  • Role-Based Access Control
  • Identity and Access Management

Sources for More Information


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