The Evolution of Authorization Controls: Exploring PBAC and Its Benefits

By Gal Helemski

[By Gal Helemski, co-founder and CTO at PlainID]

There has been a substantial trend toward improvement of authorization capabilities and controls. Policy Based Access Control (PBAC) provided by advanced authorization and access control system is progressively displacing more basic and traditional procedures like Access Control List (ALC) and Role-Based Access Control (RBAC).

PBAC provides a substantial advancement in authorization control approaches. It expands on the frameworks established by its predecessors, by providing flexibility, taking a more holistic approach, incorporating the strengths of each model while concurrently addressing their limitations.

The Evolution of PBAC

Even though it has been on the market for over 30 years, the existing RBAC management solution is complex and inflexible. Because of the intricacies of these solutions, significant amount of IT resources are invested in setting access controls and permissions right.
Role-based Access control is a coarse-grained technique in which access is static and granted simply based grouping of permissions. As the organization grows, keeping track of the increasing number of changing user roles, and the combination that need to be supported, becomes practically impossible, resulting in the known a “role explosion” problem.

Attribute-based Access Control (ABAC) is a finer-grained technique that provides access controls based on combinations of attributes. However, it is considered a localized and highly technical solution, still resulting in significant investment.

As both approaches are still utilized, Policy-Based Access Control takes the best of both techniques but makes it accessible and visible. PBAC can support both roles and attributes, of the user, the asset and the environment, providing more restricted access control and management capabilities. PBAC approaches often allow policies to be coded in plain language, bridging the gap between the app owners and dev

These capabilities have become increasingly important as organizations require more flexible access controls to the company resources, to support their growing business objectives.

Top Reasons to Consider PBAC

  • Authorization Control Efficiency: PBAC provides the most efficient method of managing authorization controls. Organizations can design and enforce access restrictions centrally by leveraging policy-based procedures, reducing complexity, and maintaining consistency across systems.
  • Simplified Development Lifecycle: The development cycle is simplified by PBAC’s policy-as-code methodology. This means that the policy can be developed and controlled as code, making version control, testing, and deployment of authorization rules easier. This streamlined procedure improves agility and minimizes application time to market.
  • Real-Time Authorization Decisions: PBAC allows for dynamic and real-time authorization decisions based on contextual information. PBAC ensures that access is provided or refused at a highly granular level by considering elements such as qualities, resource features, and environmental variables.
  • Enhanced Visibility: PBAC improves visibility by providing insight into the reasons behind access decisions. Organizations can learn why a specific access request was authorized or rejected, which can help with auditing, compliance, and governance activities. Transparency improves accountability and allows for improved decision-making.

PBAC is an essential milestone in authorization controls as it provides several benefits to enterprises. Its capacity to provide access restrictions and a more streamlined lifecycle and decision-making process, makes it a significant tool in today’s cybersecurity landscape. Remember that without policies, all access is an exception; thus, having well-defined and implemented regulations to manage access is critical. Organizations may strengthen security posture and ensure seamless access management by embracing PBAC. In an ever-changing landscape, PBAC is a testament to the continual innovation required to combat future threats to your organization.


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