The core function of RBAC is to decide and set permissions and provide privileges in order to dispense necessary access for authorized users. Many large organizations have varying levels of hierarchy that demand access to sensitive information. Therefore, with RBAC, organizations can provide users with access to only the information that is relevant to them based on their roles.


Overall, there are two types of permissions that authorizers can grant users:

  • Data authorization
  • Feature authorization

Permissions can be further classified depending on the features of the application. The following is an example of permission classification:

  • Read
  • Create
  • Update
  • Delete
  • Export

What RBAC involves:

  • Roles are based on several factors, like authorization, responsibilities, job competency, and the scope of involvement.
  • Organizations with numerous employees, contractors, or third parties should realize the significance of limiting network access.
  • RBAC-dependent organizations can better secure sensitive data and critical applications.
  • Based on the information and situations, differing permission levels can be granted to roles that are distinct. It is also possible for permissions to overlap in some cases.


According to NIST, "rudimentary forms of role-based access control were implemented in a variety of ad hoc forms on many systems beginning in the 1970s."

It was not until 1992 that Ferraiolo and Kuhn published a paper defining and proposing RBAC as a substitute for discretionary access control (DAC) and mandatory access control (MAC). They defined these three fundamental requirements for RBAC:

  • Assignment of roles: Employees or subjects are to be assigned clear roles and responsibilities. If permitted by the defined user role, employees or subjects are allowed transactions.
  • Authorization of roles: An employee or a subject should only be authorized for the roles designated for them.
  • Authorization of transactions: Only transactions that have been authorized by an employee's or subject's role memberships can be executed.

These fundamental requirements for RBAC ensure that appropriate permissions and privileges are granted by the organization while retaining a role-based hierarchy.


The systematic implementation and maintenance of a least privilege policy across a huge, geographically distributed organization is safely expedited by RBAC. These are the primary benefits of RBAC:

  • The reduction of administrative work and IT support
  • Optimal operational efficiency
  • Improved compliance with regulatory and statutory laws
  • Potential error avoidance when setting permissions
  • Predefined roles for the integration of third-party users

The other benefits of RBAC can be further classified as follows:

  • Security and its integration into the organizational structure: As RBAC overlaps with privacy, compliance, and confidentiality, it inherently strengthens the blanket of security as a whole. Moreover, for the sake of assigning permissions with ease, hierarchies based on the level of seniority can be imposed.
  • Access management based on selective roles and responsibilities: Managing the permissions of users with multiple roles can be simplified by an RBAC system.
  • Separation of duties (SoD) as a function of security: SoD involves the division of accounts. It ensures the safety of other systems or accounts if a single account is the victim of a cyberattack by distributing control of a particular task to multiple people. This way, the overall system is protected because no single person has exclusive control.
  • Simplification and time-saving flexibility: RBAC entails periodically reviewing and adjusting permissions for every single role. It simplifies tasks relating to onboarding and offboarding users across departments. It also eases the task of repositioning people between departments.
  • Accelerated audit reporting: Although this feature ultimately saves time, its inherent benefits also include a significant enhancement to visibility for administrators, the detection of anomalies, and compliance with organizational policies and regulations.

RBAC implementation

Although RBAC has benefits extending as far as compliance with regulations and an improved security posture, its implementation and enforcement can prove to be quite challenging. This step-by-step approach to RBAC implementation should be considered:

  1. What does your business need?
  2. The first step is to understand what your business needs by analyzing the need for RBAC, job roles and functions, and what access is required to support the processes and technologies of your organization.

  3. What is the scope of the implementation?
  4. Before defining the roles and tasks of individuals, conduct a scope analysis and create an implementation plan that aligns with the needs of your organization. A scope analysis aids in transition management and helps you assess the current level of protection in systems or platforms with sensitive data.

  5. How do you define roles?
  6. Performing an organizational needs analysis and knowing how individuals perform tasks will ease the process of defining roles. For a seamless defining process, you should be wary of some of the common pitfalls, like roles overlapping, sparse granularity, and allowing too many exceptions for multiple permissions.

  7. How do you finally implement RBAC?
  8. Follow the steps below to implement RBAC:

    • Address the main user groups.
    • Choose to begin with coarse-grained access control.
    • Gradually increase granularity.
    • Collect feedback from users.
    • Surveil the environment.

BRBAC best practices

A great deal of consideration is required before an organizational shift to RBAC. In order to avoid any unnecessary disruptions to processes and technologies, follow these best practices:

  • Make adjustments and adapt continually
  • The first iteration of your RBAC system may not work exactly as you intend, but consider this a learning curve on the path to eventually achieving your ultimate goal. Assess the efficacy of the implementation periodically and update security processes whenever required.

  • Maintain a list of current roles
  • It is highly recommended to maintain a list in which users are classified based on roles as a function of permission. Make sure to leave creativity and an enjoyable work culture unaffected when trying to organize teams.

  • Audit continuously
  • A user's access to various features should be tracked and compared with their assigned roles. Track incoming requests for any additional access as well. Remember to address the bigger picture by refining existing roles to align with organizational goals better.

    In conclusion, for organizations deploying applications in the cloud, RBAC is a critical necessity. Additionally, for an organization with numerous employees, RBAC offers a clear advantage as it boosts the security of the entire organization.

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