What Is Dynamic Authorization and Why Is It so Critical for Security Resilience

Rose Kim
July 26, 2023

The growing number of cyberattacks and data breaches has made security resilience a top priority for organizations worldwide. In 2023,  a financial services provider disclosed a data breach which impacted 4.8 million individuals. The exposed personal data included full names, date of birth, physical address, email address, phone numbers, social security numbers, passport numbers, driver's license numbers, and tax ID numbers.

Amidst the growing number of cyberattacks and data breaches impacting organizations worldwide, the issue becomes even more pronounced as more organizations transition to remote work. According to Digital Information World, “Based on the findings in the research titled Work From Anywhere – Global Study, 62% of organizations offering remote work options ended up suffering from data breaches that could have been prevented if the employees had been coming into the office.” 

The core of these breaches involves cyberattacks involving unauthorized access to networks, applications, and systems, during which cybercriminals pilfer data from the organization. The stolen data may comprise intellectual property, financial records, and sensitive personal information of customers and users.

Access management solutions are a fundamental part of an organization's security infrastructure, aiming to regulate who can access various resources and ultimately mitigate the risk of financial and reputational damage. Among the services that these solutions typically provide are centralized authentication, single sign-on (SSO), and session management, among others.

While organizations may excel in authentication with the adoption of multifactor authentication, the number of cyberattacks still continue to rise. Statistics indicate that relying solely on authentication cannot provide complete security assurance, necessitating the adoption of more comprehensive security measures.

Authentication Is Not Enough

Authentication, verifies a user's identity before granting them access to data, network, system, or device. User ID and passwords, multi-factor authentication, one-time pins (OTP), and biometrics  are among the most widely used authentication factors.

Although essential for verifying user identities, authentication alone cannot ensure security resilience. To achieve comprehensive security, organizations must also implement authorization, which follows every digital interaction that happens post-authentication. It ultimately addresses  the last mile of Zero Trust security by granting or revoking user permissions to resources through Authorization.

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Limitations of Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

Effective access control must consist of both robust authentication and authorization. RBAC has been a prevalent authorization approach, granting access based on the user's role within the organization. RBAC provides some administrative simplicity, but it falls short in today's dynamic and distributed environment with hundreds of applications, numerous systems, hybrid legacy and cloudified, microservices-driven infrastructures, and hundreds, sometimes even thousands of roles that are continually changing and require the creation of a new access scenario with each change, ultimately leading to role explosion. This system is entirely too granular, lacks flexibility, and is very limited in large scales.

Similarly, while ABAC takes policies to the enterprise-level and supports cloud native applications it is often siloed to the enterprise’s individual lines of business. This results in misaligned business and security requirements that impacts agility and time-to-market.

Dynamic Authorization through Policy Based-Access Control (PBAC)

Dynamic Authorization, powered by PBAC, grants access to resources, applications, data, and any other assets, in real-time. This is achieved by replacing RBAC with policy-based access control (PBAC), where business logic is laid on top of RBAC and ABAC evaluates the level of permissions and privileges that should be granted in real-time. 

PBAC provides the necessary framework for evaluating a user's access rights based on various factors, such as their certification level, role and responsibilities, access to sensitive information, time and location of the digital interaction, device used and other risk-based signals that may add context and intelligence to the access decision. 

By implementing dynamic authorization, organizations can replace hundreds or even thousands of policies that can be managed centrally through a single pane of glass. Fine-grained access control enables users to access the correct data. With centralized management security professionals can easily add or update policies as needed, as well as quickly deploy them – a key benefit of externalizing authorization, and centralizing its management.

How to do Dynamic Authorization Right

Organizations are faced with the challenge of managing numerous access rules that are distributed across multiple repositories, directories, and on the application level. With growing technology stacks, coupled with the rise of remote work, organizations face challenges in effectively managing and enforcing real-time authorization unless they have dynamic authorization capabilities in place.

For a deeper dive into how organizations enhance security with dynamic authorization, book a demo to learn more.

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