Access control is a security technique that regulates who or what can view or use resources in a computing environment. It is a fundamental concept in security that minimizes risk to the business or organization.
There are two types of access control: physical and logical. Physical access control limits access to campuses, buildings, rooms and physical IT assets. Logical access control limits connections to computer networks, system files and data.
To secure a facility, organizations use electronic access control systems that rely on user credentials, access card readers, auditing and reports to track employee access to restricted business locations and proprietary areas, such as data centers. Some of these systems incorporate access control panels to restrict entry to rooms and buildings as well as alarms and lockdown capabilities to prevent unauthorized access or operations.
Access control systems perform identification authentication and authorization of users and entities by evaluating required login credentials that can include passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs), biometric scans, security tokens or other authentication factors. Multifactor authentication, which requires two or more authentication factors, is often an important part of layered defense to protect access control systems.
These security controls work by identifying an individual or entity, verifying that the person or application is who or what it claims to be, and authorizing the access level and set of actions associated with the username or IP address. Directory services and protocols, including the Local Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), provide access controls for authenticating and authorizing users and entities and enabling them to connect to computer resources, such as distributed applications and web servers.
Organizations use different access control models depending on their compliance requirements and the security levels of information technology they are trying to protect.