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Upgrading to Smarter Authorisation

by internationalbanker

By Gal Helemski, Co-founder and CTO, PlainID





The financial industry has  an extensive history of implementing complex  access-control systems  to  deliver on the financial needs of its clients. Responsible for the personal details and transactions of potentially millions of customers, over time, they have developed complicated authorisation procedures specifically designed to maintain the security of sensitive information. Compared with  other industries, this level of familiarity within financial institutions  proves they are valuable resources for handling data protection  and  authorisation  management.

The problem is that ever-faster digital transformation in the finance industry has led to some legacy platforms becoming no longer fit for purpose in terms of usability, scalability and flexibility, while audit capability is also lacking. That means enabling a dynamic, frictionless and consumer-friendly digital-banking experience becomes more difficult.

Nor is that the only challenge. Given the strictly regulated nature of the sector, financial institutions must know precisely which users have access to what services and data. However, legacy identity and access management (IAM) authorisation systems are frequently hosted on discrete IT (information technology) platforms and applications, which are time-consuming to manage and enormously difficult to audit accurately. Moreover, given the outdated nature of these systems, they are in no way fit for supporting more recent digitalisation strategies, such as APIs (application programming interfaces) and microservices.

Therefore, to succeed in the modern financial environment, where agility, accountability and security are critical, banks must upgrade outdated authorisation-management platforms to enable flexible access control.

Where to begin?

A range of key requirements should be considered when looking for an up-to-date and feature-rich authorisation and access-control system to deliver enhanced risk protection and add business value. Firstly, securing personal financial data held on websites and applications used daily by customers requires well-defined access-control policies that also support core business objectives. This will enable consumers to use multiple digital channels in highly personalised ways.

At the same time, financial institutions must keep up with an ever-evolving compliance ecosystem, so their access-control rules must continually adapt to changing regulations and legislations. Performing detailed audits will help ensure these access-control policies meet rapidly changing compliance rules while enabling genuinely effective governance.

In addition, companies must have faith that the authorisation and access-control solutions they implement will have the requisite flexibility to operate across a broad spectrum of applications and platforms, whether they run on-premises or on private, public or hybrid clouds. This functionality is key to ensuring that policies can be applied consistently across the board without additional access-control investment. It will also help future-proof the business because any incoming infrastructure migrations will not lead to additional complexities in robust access-control management.

Introducing Policy-based Access Control (PBAC)

PBAC is a modern approach to authorisation. Unlike legacy access-control solutions, which can be costly and demand high levels of technical expertise to manage, PBAC allows companies to create access policies using simple, everyday language, which can then be applied automatically across multiple diverse environments. PBAC bridges the business language and the underlying technology that supports it. Without requiring expert technical skills, line-of-business management teams can take total control of their own access-management needs and decisions. An additional bonus is that IT resources are freed to concentrate on more important strategic business projects.

By defining common, consistent policies that enforce authorisation in even the most demanding cases, we can optimise processes and make them more efficient, no matter in which environment they may be found. At the same time, PBAC enables policy-testing tools to create holistic visibility of each policy’s impact and effectiveness. These policies can be audited and updated whenever required, providing total transparency concerning “who can do what” within their systems while ensuring rules and access can be changed in response to evolving business needs.

Modern, secure banking

New operational realities are leading an increasing number of financial institutions to consider PBAC a better way to authorise who has access to what and when this applies. However, the who, what, why, when and how of data access are always changing because business needs are constantly changing, as are individual roles and their associated requirements. That’s why decisions concerning data access must be made at the time of access based on real-time context.

In our modern, fast-moving corporate environment, banks must have the appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that essential data, the lifeblood of any business, is available to whoever needs it whenever they need it. However, that data must remain secure and protected by versatile, context-based security policies designed to support specific governance objectives.

The future of PBAC 

The future of PBAC holds remarkable promise, driven by several key trends, such as the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), enabling systems to analyse and adapt access policies in real-time. This self-learning capability ensures that access privileges align with evolving user behaviours and the overall security landscape.

Other technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT), promise additional developments. As IoT devices become entry points for potential breaches, PBAC offers a nuanced approach to managing device-specific permissions, preventing compromised gadgets from becoming gateways to sensitive data. The challenges of remote work and hybrid office models also lend momentum to PBAC adoption. With diverse access scenarios, PBAC ensures that users enjoy seamless yet secure access to resources regardless of their physical locations.

With its ability to accommodate dynamic access scenarios, harness AI-driven insights and align with regulatory demands, PBAC stands as a linchpin in the modern financial organisation’s arsenal. As data breaches become more sophisticated and widespread, embracing PBAC could determine whether organisations stay ahead of the curve or become victims of the next cyber onslaught.

Ultimately, PBAC helps banks enforce access controls using pre-built services that exploit distributed enforcement capabilities to provide each business department with the speed and flexibility they need to deploy new applications securely and compliantly. By streamlining the process of devising, overseeing and executing authorisation policies that cater to swiftly changing demands, PBAC liberates institutions from the complexities of orchestrating various IT experts for specific tasks.

Instead, it empowers them to establish authorisation protocols aligned with business rationales and requirements. In a landscape where adaptable control protocols stand as the cornerstone for maintaining competitiveness and prosperity in the digital epoch, PBAC equips financial institutions to enhance their operational workflows and harness emerging prospects.


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