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Access request is a formal process of requesting access to specific resources, systems, or information, which are subject to review and approval by authorized personnel for ensuring optimized access control.

How Does Access Requests Work?

Access requests are important to data security and Identity and Access Management (IAM). The activity particularly involves requesting access to any specific resource in an organization, such as databases, systems, applications, or files. Access to sensitive resources cannot be granted without carefully examining the user, their role or permission level, and the system's or the data's sensitivity. Hence, access requests must always be granted through pre-defined access policies. However, in a typical setting, the access requests may involve the following common steps:

  • The process begins with an authorized user requesting permission to access an organization's particular file, folder, or system. It may be an employee of the organization or a third-party collaborator.
  • The access request must always be sent through a pre-defined channel or a ticket. The access request must always include all the important information, such as why the access is required and what system, services, or data would be accessed, to name a few.
  • Next comes the approval phase of the access request. Once the requester submits the request, examining the access request thoroughly is critical. Determine the role or level of permission the requester has, the access governance policies around the particular resource, etc. If it is a sensitive system or data, it is better to ensure that the approval goes through all the stakeholders to ensure only authorized individuals can access sensitive resources.
  • Once a user's access request is approved, the user is granted access. However, during access provisioning to the requestee, security teams must create a separate user account, set up access policies and controls, and assign desired permissions.
  • Apart from provisioning, access revocation policies must also be set up as well. Access revocation is important to ensure access to any sensitive resource must be reverted as soon as the purpose for which it is granted has been fulfilled.

Why Do Access Requests Matter?

Setting up policies around access requests and monitoring such activities are important for many reasons. For starters, access requests allow businesses to supervise and control access to critical infrastructure or the sensitive data residing in that infrastructure. This helps reduce any security risks, such as unauthorized access, data exposure, data leaks, or any other kinds of insider attacks.

Apart from a security perspective, access governance policies are also important for compliance purposes. Many industry data protection regulations and cyber security frameworks require businesses to maintain adequate security measures and protect customers’ personal information.

Access request processes also help businesses optimize efficiency across the board. Users are granted access to resources they require without any unnecessary delays. Access requests further allow organizations to have a complete log of all the access-related activities, such as who requested access, the purpose of the access request, or the systems that would be accessed. This log further helps with audit trails for better accountability and cross-examination if any security breach occurs.

How Can Access Request Workflows Be Streamlined?

It is critical for organizations to streamline their access request processes to reduce unnecessary delays and ensure that strict policies and practices are being observed. Here are some of the following ways security teams can optimize their access request workflows:

  • Organizations must first shift their access request processes from manual to automated. Manual access request practices can greatly hamper efficiency as there’s a high chance of human errors and oversights. With automation, security teams can ensure complete efficiency and fast access provisioning.
  • Security teams must set up self-service dashboards for access request approvals and provisionings. This way the organization can get a unified view of all the access-related activities. Moreover, users requesting access also get a complete view of their access request status and history.
  • Pre-made templates can also help speed up the access request and provisioning process. Templates can have pre-defined fields where users only need to fill out the information and click to submit the request. The pre-defined templates may include information like the name of the requestee, the purpose of the access request, the system or application requested to be accessed, etc.
  • Security teams must strive to achieve a zero-trust model by implementing a role-based access control or least-privilege access policy. RBAC policies help teams ensure access or permission is restricted to the employee's job.
  • Lastly, always regularly review the entire access activities across the organization. Regular monitoring allows teams to identify any anomalies or revoke access as soon as the purpose is fulfilled.

What Are the Best Practices for Handling Access Requests?

Following are some of the best practices for managing access requests:

  • Security teams must define clear access control policies. These policies depend on the sensitivity of the infrastructure and the data. Secondly, the policies must undergo a strict review and approval phase before being finalized and communicated to employees. More importantly, the policies are created while considering the best industry frameworks and practices.
  • As mentioned earlier, teams should implement an RBAC policy created on the principle of least privilege access. It means access is granted based on users’ roles and responsibilities.
  • Always maintain a detailed audit log for compliance purposes as well as accountability.
  • Conduct regular reviews to ensure the access activities align with the business needs.

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