Access governance is part of security management. It is the process of governing “who” should have access to a system and “how” they can gain entry into “what” within a network. The concept is often confused with access management. In reality, however, it is a higher form of access management since policies and procedures support access control.

Access governance is put in place to help organizations limit security risks that may arise from users trying to gain unauthorized access to confidential data. There has been a growing need for access governance as most organizations aim to comply with regulations and seek to improve their security posture.

Suppose you are the head of a human resources team, and your job is to secure all employee documents. You are responsible for ensuring that these are kept away from prying eyes. This is what access governance means in simple terms.

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Why Is Access Governance Important?

Access governance is critical because it provides a comprehensive means to keep track of every employee’s role and privileges within specific departments in an organization. As a result, it prevents data leakage by enabling:

Tiered Permissions

More than providing direct control over access to data, access governance is also crucial when setting up tiered permissions. For example, you only want specific people in your department to see the draft of the employee handbook currently in the works. With an access governance system in place, only the people you choose can view the file possibly to provide feedback. Editing rights can be limited to more senior staff or management.

Security Control

Security breaches can be detrimental to any organization. But they are not limited to external attacks. With robust access governance in place, organizations can assign the level of privileges to all accounts, reducing chances of leakage. Access governance can mean revoking the access of people no longer with the company. While it is good to keep a history of their account for auditing, freezing their access rights is best to prevent hacking attacks.

Regulatory Compliance

Most regulations mandate organizations, especially those in the financial and healthcare sectors, to protect their consumers’ data at all times. An access governance solution that can prevent data compromise can help ensure that.

Challenges Related to Access Governance

Controlling access is often easier said than done. Organizations fail because of challenges like:

Permission Cleanup

Often, organizations that implement access governance solutions do so on top of their data security model. They thus need to perform a permission cleanup of systems that have been in existence for decades, which is definitely time-consuming. This process requires auditing and removing the access rights of users who are no longer connected to the company. Some just skip the step, possibly rendering their systems useless.

System-Level Access

While access governance solutions typically detail who has access to sensitive data, users often forget to limit who has access to the actual access governance solutions. System-level access must be managed and controlled in a manner similar to data access to ensure security.

Identity Access Management Integration 

It is not uncommon for organizations to implement access governance as part of their identity access management (IAM). In this process, they match user roles with their privileges. Mismatches can result in vulnerabilities that can leave them open to more threats.

Deploying an access governance system should involve a careful dissection of what organizational data and valuable resources are and identifying the key people that would have access to these. It also entails choosing the right access governance solution that would fit their current architecture.