What is Access Control Management — and Does Your Business Need It?

Data Protection
5 min read
James Mignacca
November 15, 2023
James Mignacca
November 15, 2023
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Access control management is a security technique that regulates who or what can view or use resources in a computing environment. It’s a fundamental concept that enables the protection of sensitive information, systems, and resources from unauthorized access. The primary goal of access control management is to ensure that only authorized individuals or processes can access specific resources, while restricting access for unauthorized entities.

Access control management and attack surface management are two interconnected concepts within the broader scope of cybersecurity. While they address different aspects of security, they are closely related and play complementary roles in safeguarding digital assets and mitigating security risks.

Understanding the relationship between access control management and attack surface management

Access control management is concerned with regulating and controlling who or what can access specific resources within a computing environment. It focuses on implementing measures to authenticate and authorize users, restrict unauthorized access, and ensure that sensitive data and systems are protected from malicious actors.

By effectively managing access controls, organizations can reduce the risk of unauthorized data breaches, insider threats, and other security incidents that may compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of critical information.

Access control management focuses on:


The process of establishing the identity of a user, typically with usernames, email addresses, or other unique identifiers.


The process of verifying the claimed identity of a user, often using passwords, biometric data, security tokens, or other authentication methods.


The process of determining what resources an authenticated user is allowed to access and what actions they can perform. This is usually based on the user's role, permissions, or other attributes.

Access control policies

Defined rules and configurations that dictate how access is granted or denied to specific resources based on the user's identity and the context of the access request.

Access control models

These define the frameworks for implementing access control policies, such as discretionary access control (DAC), mandatory access control (MAC), role-based access control (RBAC), and attribute-based access control (ABAC).

Access control mechanisms

The technical controls and tools used to enforce access control policies, such as access control lists (ACLs), encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems.

On the other hand, attack surface management involves identifying and reducing the vulnerabilities and potential entry points that attackers can exploit to compromise a system or network. It encompasses the process of assessing, monitoring, and minimizing the overall attack surface of an organization's digital infrastructure. This involves evaluating the various points of entry, such as software applications, network ports, and system configurations, and implementing security measures to reduce the potential avenues for exploitation.

A man looks at a large screen of data

The relationship between access control management and attack surface management lies in their shared objective of enhancing overall security posture and reducing the likelihood of successful cyber-attacks. By implementing robust access control mechanisms, organizations can limit the potential attack surface by restricting unauthorized access and minimizing the exposure of critical assets to external and internal threats. Additionally, effective attack surface management practices can help identify potential weaknesses in access controls, enabling organizations to implement proactive security measures and strengthen their overall defense mechanisms.

Applying access control management best practices to support attack surface management

Implementing effective access control management practices can significantly contribute to attack surface management efforts. Here are five best practice initiatives that IT and security teams can apply to support access control management and attack surface management programs:

1. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC):

Implement RBAC to assign permissions to users based on their specific roles and responsibilities within the organization. By defining roles and associating them with the least privileges necessary to perform their tasks, you can limit unnecessary access to sensitive data and systems, thereby reducing the overall attack surface.

2. Regular Access Reviews and Audits:

Conduct regular access reviews and audits to ensure that access privileges align with the principle of least privilege. By regularly reviewing and updating user permissions and access rights, you can identify and address any discrepancies or unauthorized access, thereby reducing the potential attack surface from excessive or outdated privileges.

3. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):

Implement MFA across critical systems and applications to enhance authentication security. By requiring multiple forms of verification, such as passwords, biometrics, or security tokens, you can strengthen access controls and minimize the risk of unauthorized access, thereby reducing exposure to credential-based attacks.

4. Privileged Access Management (PAM):

Implement PAM solutions to monitor, control, and manage privileged accounts within the organization. By enforcing strict controls over privileged access and implementing session monitoring and recording, you can minimize the risk of insider threats and unauthorized access, thereby reducing the attack surface associated with administrative privileges.

5. Access Control Training and Awareness:

Provide comprehensive training and awareness programs to educate employees about the importance of access control and the risks associated with unauthorized access. By promoting a culture of security awareness and best practices, you can empower employees to understand their roles in maintaining effective access controls, thereby reducing the likelihood of accidental or intentional security breaches that could increase the organization's attack surface.

By applying these initiatives, IT and security teams can effectively support attack surface management efforts and bolster the organization's overall cybersecurity posture, thereby reducing the risk of security incidents and data breaches.

Cavelo can help

Effective access control management is crucial in ensuring data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. It helps organizations prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security incidents that could lead to significant financial and reputational damage. It’s also a critical component in compliance with various regulatory requirements related to data protection and privacy.

The Cavelo platform continuously scans cloud applications, cloud hosted servers, and on-premises servers and desktops to identify, classify, track, protect, and report on sensitive data, including PHI. It automates data discovery and classification, producing an up-to-date and accurate data inventory that supports HIPAA audit and reporting requirements.

Take a self-guided tour and see how the Cavelo platform supports HIPAA compliance for data storage and more.

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