Access Control Matrix: Model & Example

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  • 0:03 When To Use an Access…
  • 1:05 What Is An Access…
  • 2:31 Access Control Matrix…
  • 2:54 Access Control Models
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kent Beckert

Kent is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has a Master's degree in Technical Management.

An access control matrix is a single digital file assigning users and files different levels of security. We'll talk about access control models including: mandatory access, role-based access, discretionary access, and rule-based access.

When to Use an Access Control Matrix

You have made an appointment with a human resource (HR) representative to discuss several team members being considered for a promotion. During the meeting, sensitive personal and confidential information was shared. Showing some concern, the HR manager ensured everyone that the information will be protected and remain secure.

A digital record was prepared documenting each discussion point, including accomplishments, the applicable dates, times, locations, and the identity of the individuals responsible. Additionally, historical records of previous performances by the same individuals were shared with the attending members.

In this example, everyone has the right to expect confidentiality and be assured the information will be safeguarded except to those that need to know. Therefore, it becomes the primary responsibility of the HR manager to ensure the integrity of all associated records. To accomplish this, the HR manager has in place a reliable set of access control security guidelines.

What Is an Access Control Matrix?

Access to any type of information is regulated by organizations having either physical or logical access controls in place, some organizations offering both.

  • Physical controls are present to prevent a person from entering office spaces, buildings, or structures.
  • Logical controls are designed to limit electronic access to a network, a computer, digital files, and stored data.

For the purpose of this lesson, let's focus on the logical access controls, one of which is an access control matrix.

An access control matrix is a single digital file or written record having 'subjects' and 'objects' and identifies what actions, if any, are permitted by individuals. In simple terms, the matrix allows only certain people (subjects) to access certain information (objects).

As shown in this table, the matrix consists of one or more subjects (or people) along one axis and the associated objects (or files) along the other axis. Certain people are allowed to read (R), write (W), execute (E), and delete (D) files. Restricted access is indicated by a dash.

HR Records Gary Sandy Tonya Robyn Samantha
Salary Files RWED R - ED - - - - RWED RWED
Promotion List - - - D R - E - RWED RWED - - - -
Performance Reports RWED RW - D - - - - - - - - RWE -

For example, you can see that Gary is allowed to delete the promotion list, whereas Sandy is allowed to read or execute it. Tonya has full access, while Samantha has no access whatsoever.

Access Control Matrix Explained

When setting up access controls, the systems administrator must adhere to three primary principles:

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