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What Is an Access Control Policy?

September 9, 2023

Too busy to read? Here’s a summary:

  • Policies for physical access control refer to rules and templates that dictate the conditions in which credentialed individuals are allowed to enter specific physical spaces.
  • The primary approaches to access control policy are known as role-based access control (RBAC), mandatory access control (MAC), and discretionary access control (DAC).
  • Policy-based access control (PBAC) serves as a versatile tool that can be integrated with RBAC, MAC, and DAC for comprehensive and adaptive access management.

An access control policy is a set of guidelines that governs who is allowed to access specific resources and under what conditions. These policies are implemented to support operational efficiency while enhancing physical security in areas like controlled parking lots, buildings, and rooms.

Benefits of Implementing Access Control Policies

Enhanced Security: By providing secure templates for controlling who can access spaces, risks of administrative error (and unauthorized entry) are reduced.

Compliance: Implementation of access control policies can help to meet regulatory compliance requirements.

Accountability: Access control policies support improved data collection at access points that can be useful for both regulatory compliance and incident investigations.

Operational Efficiency: Access control policies streamline the process of granting and revoking access rights, reducing administrative overhead.

Primary Access Control Policies

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

Discretionary Access Control (DAC) is an access control model where the administrator of a site or resource has the discretion to set access privileges on an individual basis.

Typically implemented in small to medium-sized businesses, DAC allows for individualized control over physical spaces.

Best practices for DAC include regular reviews and updates of access permissions, as well as the implementation of a fallback mechanism for when the administrator is unavailable to make discretionary decisions.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is designed for organizations with well-defined roles and responsibilities. In this model, individuals are assigned roles, and each role has permission to access certain areas or resources.

This system is particularly useful in large organizations where managing and auditing access permissions can be complex. Access cards or biometric systems are programmed to grant or deny access based on these roles.

Best practices for RBAC include regularly updating role definitions and conducting audits to ensure compliance with role-based access permissions.

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

Mandatory Access Control (MAC) is most commonly used in high-security environments, such as military installations or places where strict compliance is required.

In MAC, access is governed by predefined policies set by a central authority. Security labels, such as "classified" or "unclassified," are attached to each physical area, and individuals must have security clearances that match or exceed these labels to gain access.

Access cards contain these security clearances and are checked against the security labels of the area being accessed. Best practices for MAC include keeping security labels and clearances up-to-date and conducting regular audits to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to secured areas.

Policy-Based Access Control (PBAC)

What is PBAC?

Policy-Based Access Control (PBAC) is an advanced access control model that can be combined with primary access policies like DAC and RBAC to make more granular access decisions.

Unlike traditional policy models, PBAC considers a variety of attributes—such as user characteristics, environmental conditions, and time of day—before deciding to grant or deny entry.

Why is policy-based access control useful?

Flexible: Allows for more nuanced access control based on a variety of conditions.

Dynamic: Can adapt to changing conditions in real-time.

Granular Control: Provides more precise access control and reduces the risk of over-permission.

How does Policy-Based Access Control relate to other access control policies or models?

In terms of its relationship with other access control models, policy-based access control (PBAC) offers flexibility and additional considerations to extend and enhance existing policy frameworks.

  • Policy-based access control (PBAC) can augment Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) by adding specific conditions to roles, such as time-based restrictions that allow access only during certain hours.
  • In the context of mandatory Access Control (MAC), PBAC can utilize security labels as just one of many attributes in order to make more nuanced decisions before granting or denying entry.
  • PBAC has the capability to incorporate the decisions made by administrators of discretionary access control (DAC) systems, thereby adding an additional layer of complexity and flexibility to the access control templates.

Examples of Policy-Based Access Control in Physical Access Control Situations

Each of the following access control policy examples showcases how PBAC can provide more nuanced and dynamic access control in physical spaces, enhancing both security and operational efficiency.

Example 1: Security Guard Access Policy

"If the user is a Security Guard and is attempting to access the Main Security Room between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., then grant access to the Main Security Room."

Here, the role is "Security Guard," and additional attributes include the time of access and the specific room. This ensures that security personnel can access critical areas only during their shifts.

Example 2: Cleaning Staff Access Policy

"If the user is a Cleaning Staff member seeking to access the office floors on weekends, then grant access to the office floors."

In this case, the role is "Cleaning Staff," and the policy specifies that they can access the office floors only on weekends.

Example 3: Executive Access to R&D Lab Policy

"If the user is an Executive attempting to access the R&D Lab, then grant access only if accompanied by an R&D Manager."

Here, the role is "Executive," and the policy adds the condition that an executive can access the R&D Lab only if accompanied by a person with the R&D Manager role, ensuring additional security for sensitive areas.

Mammoth Security and Your Best Access Control Policy

You can rely on Mammoth Security to craft the perfect access control policy tailored to your unique entry management and security requirements. Our team excels in access control installations and programming to safeguard commercial and organizational properties effectively.

Take the first step toward a more secure future by filling out the simple form below for a complimentary, no-obligation site consultation. A knowledgeable member of our team will conduct a thorough survey of your property, address your specific security concerns, and begin crafting an access control system that’s meticulously customized for your site’s unique security and entry management needs.




An access control policy is a framework that outlines who is permitted to access specific resources and under which conditions. This policy enhances security and operational efficiency in various settings like buildings, parking lots, and rooms.

Role-based access control assigns roles to individuals within an organization. Each role has specific permissions that allow or deny access to certain areas or resources. This model is particularly effective in large organizations for managing and auditing access permissions.

Mandatory access control, commonly known as MAC, is an access control model that operates based on predefined policies set by a central authority. Security labels like "classified" or "unclassified" are attached to each area, and individuals must have matching or higher security clearances to gain access.

Discretionary access control, or DAC, gives the administrator or owner the flexibility to set access privileges on an individual basis. This model is often used in small to medium-sized businesses and allows for personalized control over physical spaces.

Implementing access control policies offers several benefits, such as enhanced security, regulatory compliance, improved accountability, and increased operational efficiency.

Policy-based access control, also known as PBAC, is an advanced model that can be integrated with primary access policies like RBAC and DAC. PBAC considers multiple attributes like environmental conditions and times of day to make more nuanced access decisions.

Policy-based access control can extend RBAC by adding conditions like time-based restrictions. In the context of MAC, PBAC can use security labels as one of many attributes to make more granular decisions on access.

In mandatory access control, security labels are tags like "classified" or "unclassified" that are attached to each physical area. These labels help in determining who can access a particular space based on their security clearances.

Access control policies can assist in meeting regulatory compliance requirements by providing a structured framework for who can access specific areas, thereby reducing the risk of unauthorized entry and administrative errors.

Best practices for implementing discretionary access control include regularly reviewing and updating access permissions and having a fallback mechanism for when the administrator is unavailable to make discretionary decisions.



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