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September 2009

Schneier-Ranum Face-Off: Is Perfect Access Control Possible?

Point: Bruce Schneier Access control is difficult in an organizational setting. On one hand, every employee needs enough access to do his job. On the other hand, every time you give an employee more access, there's more risk: he could abuse that access, or lose information he has access to, or be socially engineered into giving that access to a malfeasant. So a smart, risk-conscious organization will give each employee the exact level of access he needs to do his job, and no more. Over the years, there's been a lot of work put into role-based access control. But despite the large number of academic papers and high-profile security products, most organizations don't implement it--at all--with the predictable security problems as a result. Regularly we read stories of employees abusing their database access-control privileges for personal reasons: medical records, tax records, passport records, police records. NSA eavesdroppers spy on their wives and girlfriends. Departing employees take corporate secrets. A spectacular access ...

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