Application Security

Using RBAC for cloud security and cost management

Using RBAC for cloud security and cost management
Written by ga_dahmani
Using RBAC for cloud security and cost management

One of the biggest challenges organizations face is controlling access to sensitive data. With the average cost of a data breach in 2021 pegged at $4.24 million according to the IBM Data Breach Report 2021 and the rise of data privacy regulations (such as HIPAA and GDPR), companies need to ensure that employees have the right access to the data needed to do their jobs, while keeping out malicious actors.

It is critical that policies and procedures are in place to override access when employees leave an organization, either voluntarily or through termination. These tools and policies should be in place to maintain least privilege access to avoid “privilege black holes,” where a user retains access to resources that are no longer needed.

The most common solution used to ensure proper access levels are enforced is role-based access control (RBAC). RBAC defines who has access to what data. RBAC restricts access to resources or information to only what is absolutely necessary. RBAC is typically implemented under the least privilege standard where employees only have access to the resources they need to fulfill their job role responsibilities.

Benefits of role-based access control

The benefits of RBAC are monumental, especially when it comes to security. The risk of data breaches is reduced by restricting access to only the teams that need the data to do their jobs. RBAC also improves employee efficiency by helping them focus on their work and gain more actionable information through context-level access. As new employees come on board, RBAC gives employees greater access as they gradually become part of the team. RBAC should be automated across applications so that as an organization adds an employee to an identity management solution, all connected systems automatically update their respective access and permissions.

RBAC can also be the foundation of a compliance strategy, as it enforces resource and system-level access policies and can map system functions to organizations’ compliance policies. RBAC can enforce an access matrix that defines who can access what and with what permission to meet the needs of organizations. Another very important benefit of RBAC is that it allows administrators to have the specific credentials needed to view user login information and ensure that only authorized users are allowed to access sensitive data in critical areas of the organization. Finally, proper RBAC policies can reduce data breaches. Organizations can ensure that only the right people have the access they need to do their jobs, and nothing more.

Application of RBAC to Cloud Cost Management

Cloud cost optimization depends on engineering teams having access to the right information to take charge of cloud costs. The information must be accurate, specific, and actionable for the teams that own the cloud resources that drive cloud spending.

DevOps and FinOps teams need to understand cloud costs for their branch of the organization, and beyond that, in large organizations, there may be multiple teams focusing on various areas of the business. RBAC can empower engineers to own their specific costs by providing meaningful and relevant recommendations for their application responsibilities.

Cloud costs need to be attributed to the right stakeholders to get truly actionable recommendations in the right context. As such, RBAC is critical to achieving the ultimate goal of proper cloud cost allocation. RBAC allows the correct definition of which employee needs to have access to specific information and what type of access is useful. For example, if two team leaders are heads of different divisions in an organization, it is not beneficial for them to have visibility into the other departments’ recommendations and cloud spend. In contrast, the finance department and engineering manager would need to see all cloud cost data across all divisions to manage budgets.

A key aspect to consider when using RBAC to build a cloud cost management solution is to consider what each individual needs to do their job. There are certain types of information and actions that are applicable for an engineering team, for example, while the finance team would need different information and access. Engineers need to see recommendations that allow them to finish unused resources, while the finance team may be more concerned with forecasting. RBAC can handle this at the business context level. As a best practice, organizations should consider not creating too many roles, as it could make RBAC pointless. Additionally, companies should audit roles and permissions frequently to ensure access levels remain relevant.

RBAC is just one of several tools to consider when optimizing your cloud management approach to help prevent data breaches. But it is extremely powerful and can help organizations map the roles of their people with their different perspectives and the context of their unique cloud cost management strategy.

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