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In the context of IT security systems, authorization refers to granting or denying a user or system permission to access specific resources or data within a system, and this happens after the user or system is authenticated, which means that their identity is successfully confirmed.

The authorization secruity step decides the extent of privileges or permissions they have to access specific computer resources.

Authorization is a component of IT security’s AAA framework for Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting:

  • Authentication verifies the identity of a user, device, or system.
  • Authorization determines what resources the authenticated entity is permitted to access.
  • Accounting tracks what resources the authenticated entities have accessed over time, creating an audit trail.

Authorization is a vital part of a system’s access control mechanism and significantly contributes to maintaining the system’s security and integrity. 

Key Authorization Aspects

Authorization controls are often managed using access control lists (ACLs), role-based access control (RBAC), or access control matrices. ACLs associate users or groups with their permissions for a particular resource.

RBAC is a popular method for implementing authorization, especially in large systems. In RBAC, permissions aren’t assigned directly to individual users. Instead, they are assigned to specific roles (like ‘administrator’, ‘manager’, ‘user’, etc.), which are then assigned to users.

A user can also have multiple roles. The RBAC approach simplifies management and ensures consistent application of security policies.  

Security Policies and Authorization

Security policies are a central part of authorization, as they outline who has what kind of access to which resources. They help enforce the principle of least privilege, which states that users should be granted the minimum levels of access necessary to complete their tasks.

This minimizes the potential damage from the accidental misuse or deliberate exploitation of privileges.  

Dynamic Authorization

In more advanced or dynamic systems, authorization might change based on context. For instance, users might have different permissions when accessing a system from a trusted internal network versus an untrusted external network.

This form of context-aware or adaptive authorization helps in maintaining tighter security controls.  

Importance of Authorization

Proper authorization is crucial to maintaining the security of IT systems.

Without adequate authorization controls, malicious actors could gain access to sensitive data or critical system functions, leading to breaches of confidentiality, integrity, or availability and thus thwart the exact goals that IT security aims to maintain.

Quick Intro to Identity and Access Management – 3 mins

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