Broken Access Control: What Is It? Preventive measures and Examples

AOne security measure is access control, which limits who can access sensitive data, resources, and systems. Sensitive information and actions are only accessible to authorized users; unauthorized users are prohibited. 

It is essential to manage access to sensitive data, including financial data, intellectual property, and personally identifiable information (PII).

Conversely, there are a number of reasons why access control might not work, including incorrectly set policies, inadequate testing, and a lack of input validation. Unauthorized access, data breaches, data loss, and other security issues may arise when access control is compromised.

For businesses of all sizes and sectors, access control failure is a severe issue. It emphasizes how important it is to maintain an effective access control system that is regularly reviewed, tested, and updated to remove any vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit.

This article explains what broken access control is, explores its effects and causes, and offers several instances. We’ll also discuss how to keep an access control system operational and avoid instances of broken access control.

Broken Access Control: What Is It?

Broken access control is a vulnerability in web programs that lets users get unauthorized access to features or resources that they shouldn’t be able to access. Errors in the authentication and authorization procedures as well as flaws in the design or implementation of access control mechanisms can all lead to this.

Terms like session management, authentication, and access control are commonly used synonymously. Although these three concepts are related, they play different roles in web application security.

The process of verifying a user’s identification through multifactor authentication or biometric verification in addition to the standard use of a username and password is known as authentication. 

In addition to prohibiting unauthorized access to web application resources and functionality, authentication verifies that users are who they say they are.

On the other hand, controlling user sessions within a web application is known as session management. To keep users logged in and use the application, it needs to create and store session tokens. By guarding against attacks that take advantage of session vulnerabilities, such as session hijacking, session management aims to keep user sessions safe.

Before the program is launched, appropriate access control mechanisms—technology that imposes access control regulations, like passwords and biometrics—must be implemented and carefully checked. This will prevent failed access control. 

This entails performing regular security audits to find and fix any possible vulnerabilities, appropriately applying access control policies, and verifying user rights.

Examples of Broken Access Control

  • Access to URLs is not restricted
  • inadequate authorization verification
  • Insecure Direct Object Reference, or IDOR
  • Regulation of both vertical and horizontal access
  • Handling of interrupted sessions

Typical Reasons for Access Control Not Working

Numerous circumstances might lead to broken access control in online applications. Among the most typical causes are the following ones:

  • inadequate authorization verification
  • allusions to direct, insecure objects
  • Insufficient verification
  • Access control is not set up correctly

Finally, access control needs to be addressed in order to prevent major repercussions for online applications. Developers and security experts need to recognize and steer clear of common causes of access control failure. These actions consist of comprehensive testing, safe coding procedures, and frequent security audits.

Implications of Failed Access Control

Online applications may be seriously impacted by access control failures, which can lead to unauthorized actions and the disclosure, modification, or deletion of sensitive data. The following are some likely effects of ineffective access control:

  • Unauthorized disclosure of data
  • altering or removing data
  • Usage of capability without authorization
  • violation of the regulations

How to Avoid Broken Access Control

Access control based on roles (RBAC)

RBAC is a kind of access control where users are assigned roles according to their duties and responsibilities at work. Permissions are allocated to each position, controlling the data and capabilities that each can access. RBAC makes ensuring that users are only granted access to the tools and features required for their job.

Access Control Based on Attributes (ABAC)

ABAC is a kind of access control where a user’s eligibility for a resource is determined by its attributes. User identification, location, device kind, time of day, and other relevant variables are examples of attributes. By enabling more intricate and dynamic access control policies, ABAC makes sure users can only access resources in accordance with predetermined criteria.

Controls for authorization and authentication

Authentication rules ensure that users are correctly authorized before gaining access to any web application functionality or resources. Use session timeouts, multifactor authentication, and strong passwords to prevent unauthorized access.

Check access control audits

Finding weaknesses and vulnerabilities can be aided by conducting routine audits of access control systems. Test all vulnerabilities related to access control, including IDOR, vertical and horizontal access control, and session management, during audits.

Optimal protocols for access control

Least privilege, role separation, and defense-in-depth strategies are considered best practices for access control. These methods use many security measures and policy stacking to prevent unauthorized access.

Best practices for employee training

Preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data or functionality is crucial. Workers should receive training on how to properly implement access control policies, recognize and report flaws in access control, and handle security incidents.

Through the maintenance of data security, integrity, and availability, as well as the prevention of unauthorized access and data breaches, these protections secure online applications.

In summary

Lastly, access control forbids unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information and activities while ensuring that only authorized users can access it.

Identity theft, fraud, and data deletion are just a few of the many consequences that can arise from unauthorized access to data and functionality. Organizations should therefore think about measures to stop unwanted access. 

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