Logical Access Fundamentals for Enhanced Security: A Webinar Recap  

by Tori Thurmond / July 5th, 2023

Logical access is an essential aspect of any organization’s security. You need to make sure that the right people have access to what they need but at the same time, you need to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing sensitive information. Finding the appropriate balance can be difficult and confusing if you’re not working with security experts. That’s why one of our experienced auditors, Ron Hallford, hosted a webinar dedicated to logical access in June.  This blog recaps what was discussed.  You can watch the full webinar here.

What is Logical Access Control?

With the vulnerability of connected devices, like physical security devices such as video cameras and access control readers, organizations must establish specific security measures to ensure compliance with rules and regulations regarding the security of these devices. Technology manufacturers are continuously working to identify potential vulnerabilities on the horizon and develop solutions to mitigate risks associated with various levels of network connectivity. This is where logical access control comes into play.  

While logical access may seem like an extra step compared to other security measures, it should be one of the top priorities for organizations that care about enhanced security. Around 81% of data breaches are the result of compromised credentials. Without proper logical access controls in place, your organization could easily fall victim to a breach that would negatively impact your business and reputation.  

Logical access control refers to the process of establishing connections with hardware through remote access, typically involving identification, authentication, and authorization protocols. It stands in contrast to physical access control, which pertains to interactions with hardware in the physical environment where the equipment is located and utilized. 

Organizations around the world employ a wide range of logical access control mechanisms to protect their hardware from unauthorized access. These measures can include password programs, biometrics, smart cards, or tokens used for user identification and access level screening. The specific approach to implementing logical access controls in businesses often depends on the leaders or IT administrators. However, in government applications, federal agencies must adhere to federal guidelines to safeguard the transferred data effectively. 

Regardless of the type of business or market, organizations must remain vigilant in protecting their data, assets, and infrastructure. A few options that ensure your logical access control measures are robust include: 

1. Smart Card Readers

Smart card readers provide protection for logging into PCs and networks, encrypting hard drives, and digitally signing and encrypting emails, among other applications. These readers come in contact, contactless, or mobile options, offering a high level of security to safeguard your data.  

2. Tokens

An access token is an automated system that controls an individual’s ability to access one or more computer system resources. Compact tokens enable secure mobility for desktop and mobile applications. These tokens combine something familiar, such as a password, with a token for two-factor authentication.  

3. Mobile Apps

Advanced mobile apps support multi-factor access using a common access card (CAC), personal identity verification (PIV), and derived credentials. They offer secure web browsing capabilities, email signing, encryption, decryption, and secure app development. We work with organizations that are constantly seeking ways to enhance IT security, adopt current security practices, and meet new security compliance mandates. Logical access control serves as a powerful tool for identifying, authenticating, authorizing, and ensuring accountability in accessing both hardware and software. Ultimately, mobile apps are an indispensable component in protecting one of your most valuable assets. 

There are many different controls that contribute to logical access within an organization. Some of these controls are required by different frameworks and others are recommended best practices for creating a strong logical access system within your organization.  

Identity and Access Management (IAM)  

Identity and Access Management (IAM) encompasses the policies, technologies, and processes used to manage user identities, authenticate users, and control their access to systems, applications, and data. A well-implemented IAM strategy ensures that users have appropriate access privileges and that their activities can be audited effectively.  

Effective management of user identities and access rights is critical for maintaining data security, reducing risk, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.  By implementing effective management practices and aligning these practices with relevant audit frameworks, organizations can establish robust identity and access management (IAM) processes that protect sensitive data, prevent unauthorized access, and meet compliance obligations. 

Authentication and Authorization

Authentication and authorization are key components to establishing solid logical access controls because authorized users need to be able to prove they are who they say they are and that they are allowed to access certain information.  

The use of strong authentication mechanisms like passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and adaptive authentication techniques make for a secure authentication process for users. It’s also important to implement a centralized authentication system to provide consistent and secure authentication across systems and applications as well as implementing access control mechanisms such as access control lists (ACLs) and permission models to enforce granular authorization controls.   

Privileged Access Management (PAM)

PAM is a logical access control where higher permission levels can be assigned to accounts with critical information. PAM helps organizations monitor who has access to what information. Several ways to enforce PAM include:  

 1. Segregating privileged accounts

Isolate administrative accounts from regular user accounts and restrict their usage to authorized personnel only.   

2. Implementing just-in-time access

Grant temporary access to privileged accounts only when needed and monitor the activities closely.  

3. Regularly rotating privileged account credentials

Enforce password changes and employ password vaults or privileged session management solutions. 

Audit Frameworks and Logical Access Controls

Different audit frameworks like ISO 27001, NIST, and PCI DSS have different requirements when it comes to logical access. Make sure you partner with a compliance expert who understands the frameworks that apply to your organization and what logical access controls you need to implement to remain secure and compliant.  

Role Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC refers to a set of policies that govern and limit user access to operations and objects, taking into account their identity, intention, and session attributes. For example, a member of the marketing team should have access to different platforms than the head of the IT department or a member of the operations team. RBAC helps prevent unnecessary mistakes, or in some cases ill intentions, that could lead to security events. 

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication is a security measure including registration, authentication, and verification steps that involves a multi-step login process, requiring users to provide more than just a password. In addition to a password, users may be prompted to enter a code sent to their email, answer a secret question, or use biometric data such as a fingerprint scan. By introducing an additional layer of authentication, MFA helps prevent unauthorized access to accounts, even if a password has been compromised. 

In today’s digital landscape, where sensitive information is stored online, maintaining strong security measures is crucial. Both individuals and businesses interact with online accounts, applications, and services, making it essential to safeguard this digital information. Breaches or unauthorized access can lead to severe consequences, including financial theft, business disruptions, and compromised privacy. 

While passwords offer some level of protection, they are no longer sufficient on their own. Skilled cybercriminals actively target passwords and can exploit reused passwords across multiple accounts. Multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security, making it significantly more challenging for unauthorized users to gain access, even if passwords have been compromised. Organizations employ MFA to verify user identities and grant efficient and secure access to authorized users. 

A few added advantages of MFA are: 

1. Reduced security risks

MFA minimizes risks associated with human errors, forgotten passwords, and lost or stolen devices. 

2. Empowered digital initiatives

With MFA in place, organizations can confidently embark on digital initiatives, knowing that organizational and user data are protected, enabling secure online interactions and transactions. 

3. Enhanced security response

By configuring MFA systems to detect and alert on suspicious login attempts, companies and individuals can swiftly respond to potential cyberattacks, mitigating potential damages. 

MFA can be implemented in several ways:  

  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) or two-step authentication, where the system requests the password and one additional identification factor. 
  • Third-party authenticator applications that verify a user’s identity. The user enters the passcode into the authenticator, which then confirms their identity to the system. 
  • Biometric authentication, where users provide unique biometric data like fingerprints, retinal scans, or other physical attributes during the verification process. 
  • Some systems may require multiple authentication steps only when accessing the system for the first time on a new device, after which subsequent logins may only require a password. 

Auditing Logical Controls

Conducting an audit of a company’s logical access security is a critical measure in safeguarding data. This process involves examining the controls and procedures in place to protect, detect, and respond to unauthorized access to essential data and systems. Auditing logical access security offers several key benefits, including the identification of vulnerabilities, improvement of security controls, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. 

During the auditing process, access controls, authentication methods, audit logs, and compliance and regulatory environments need to be assessed to make sure everything is functioning as it should be. Auditing logical access security is a crucial step in protecting sensitive data and can reduce the risk of data breaches, protect their reputation, and safeguard their bottom line. It is essential to conduct regular and thorough audits of logical access security to adapt to evolving cyber threats and ensure the effectiveness of security controls over time. 

Partner with KirkpatrickPrice to strengthen your logical access controls.

There’s a lot that goes into making sure your organization is implementing the proper logical access controls. However, with the increasing frequency of data breaches, it’s essential that you make logical access a priority. If you still have questions about logical access or are ready to get started on your audit, connect with one of your experts like Ron today.  

About the Author

Tori Thurmond

Tori Thurmond has degrees in both professional and creative writing. She has over five years of copywriting experience and enjoys making difficult topics, like cybersecurity compliance, accessible to all. Since starting at KirkpatrickPrice in 2022, she's earned her CC certification from (ISC)2 which has aided her ability to contribute to the company culture of educating, empowering, and inspiring KirkpatrickPrice's clients and team members.