What Is Access Control?

Maciej Bartłomiej Sikora
Content Writer
what is access control

Back in 2007, in an interview for Inc magazine, a then-35-year-old Elon Musk responded to a question about the way he runs his multi-industry business by saying that it’s ok to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket. Considering all the businesses he ran after that interview and runs to this day, it is fair to say that Musk knew what he was talking about.

Also, Musk, as any other entrepreneur, would most probably agree that taking care of “the basket” — a business – involves establishing clear rules on who can and who cannot have access to it. After all, running a company is also about managing data and resources effectively.

The above means that to achieve business success, you must provide the right people with access to the right tools and the right information. At the same time, you need to make sure that unauthorized parties will not be able to get your resources. This is where access control enters the conversation.

Access control definition

Access control can be described as a data security process that can help organizations manage who is allowed to access their data, apps, and resources and on what grounds. Just as keys and passcards are used to protect physical spaces, access control policies are utilized to keep digital environments safe. You could say that they are like virtual border control officers whose work is to let the right people in and keep outsiders on the other side of the cyberfence.

The process, which plays an important role in helping organizations protect themselves from data breaches and phishing attacks, involves using techniques such as authentication and authorization to verify whether a given user is who they say they are and whether they have been provided with the appropriate level of access. The latter is done by checking if the user’s device, location, or role in the organization matches their security profile.

Access control components


Authentication is a security process that helps confirm the identity of a given user by authenticating their credentials against a database that contains all user identities and access privileges.

For example, when you sign in to your email or bank account using your username and password (or biometrics), your identity will be authenticated by verifying if the username and password you provided match the credentials stored in the database.

Although authentication allows you to reduce identity-related access risks, it is only the first step to making sure that the right people will have access to your company resources.


Authorization serves as an extra security layer that comes after authentication. It is about defining access rights and access privileges for specified resources so that later you can verify whether a given user should or should not be granted access. In other words, it involves creating policies that dictate who has access to certain resources. This means, for example, that a user may be authorized to access only specific files or folders on a network drive, but not others existing within the same IT environment.

For example, you can create an authorization policy that will allow only managers to access your customer database. This policy can be further developed by limiting the actions that managers can take once they have access to the database (for example, by restricting their ability to delete or modify records).


Conducting regular audits to identify and address any potential vulnerabilities or breaches is an important element of access control.

Audits don’t only help organizations assess the effectiveness of their access control policies and procedures — they can also allow them to identify areas that may require additional attention or resources. The findings can then be used to further develop the policies and procedures as well as to allocate resources more effectively.

What’s more, audits can help businesses achieve compliance with relevant regulations and industry standards and provide valuable insights that can be used for finding new ways of improving business performance.

Types of access control

types of access control

The importance and benefits of access control

Access control plays an important role in cybersecurity and IT infrastructure management because it helps to protect the digital assets and data of a given organization. The main objective of access control is to help create a secure environment where the right employees have access to the right tools and information — which explains why it should not be overlooked by any business owner.

The benefits of access control are:

  • It prevents unauthorized access to confidential information.

  • It reduces the risk of data breaches.

  • It enables organizations to comply with data protection regulations.

  • It reduces administrative costs by automating the process of granting and revoking access.

  • It allows organizations to monitor who has access to which resources.

  • It makes it easier to identify and investigate security breaches.

How to implement access control

To implement access control, you need to make it part of an organization’s IT infrastructure, which can involve integrating identity management and access management systems. Usually, when a new user is added to the access management system, the administrator establishes permissions based on access control frameworks, job responsibilities, and workflows.

When it comes to setting up the systems, the most recommended approach is following “the principle of least privilege” which ensures that employees have access to only those resources that they need to perform their tasks efficiently and effectively.

Access control software

With so many access control software programs and technologies available on the market, it is sometimes difficult to pick just one solution. Also, knowing that some of the platforms can be used together as part of one’s comprehensive cybersecurity strategy makes the decision process even more difficult.

While some access control tools are on-premises solutions (which means they need to be made part of an organization’s on-site IT environment), others can be deployed in the cloud — and some are both on-premise and cloud platforms.

The process of choosing the right access control software for a company usually relies on the needs, requirements, and resources of that company. For example, it depends on whether the company wants only internal staff members to be able to access its data or whether its goal is to give access to augmented staff (external professionals) as well.

Typically, soon after a given company decides to implement access control, it discovers that there are five basic types of access management software tools. They are:

  • Password management platforms.

  • Reporting and monitoring services.

  • Provisioning tools.

  • Security policy enforcement tools.

  • Identity repositories.

Of course, you can find access control tools that can serve multiple cybersecurity purposes at the same time. Therefore, it is possible to find a solution that is, for example, both a password manager and a reporting and monitoring tool.

NordPass and access control

NordPass is an encrypted password and passkey management platform that can also be used as an access control tool. With its help, you can provide members of your organization with access to company data, systems, and applications without making any compromises on security. How so?

When you use the Business version of NordPass, you can share an unlimited number of digital entry points that you can assign to different departments or teams. In other words, you are in full control of access to shared credentials, payment information, and other sensitive data across the entire organization.

NordPass uses multi-factor authentication (MFA) as well as the single sign-on (SSO) authentication method to identify and verify each user before they access one of the company accounts. NordPass offers three different MFA options, including an authenticator app, a security key, and backup codes. As a result, your team members can have the option to choose the method that suits them best.

NordPass can also help you become compliant with the latest data protection policies. Some regulations (e.g., HIPAA and NIST) require organizations to use access management tools. With NordPass, you can manage access privileges and establish rules and processes that will help your company to be in line with particular specifications.

Of course, NordPass is primarily an encrypted password and passkey management solution. This means that it was designed to help organizations securely store, generate, manage, and share company credentials.

But it is also more than that. By providing you with features such as a data breach scanner or password health check-up, NordPass reveals itself as a solution that can serve multiple cybersecurity purposes at once — many of which go beyond access control.

Subscribe to NordPass news

Get the latest news and tips from NordPass straight to your inbox.