Access Control vs. Encryption, Which Is Better?

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Access Control or Encryption?

These two methods have been on long-standing with one another when it comes to having the upper hand in safeguarding data. But how can one decide which is better than the other? Access control is defined as a security technique used to regulate who has the authority to view what data; while encryption simply encoding all data into an unreadable format and only allowed access if one holds the decryption key.

In a glance, most would unanimously agree that encryption would be the better option. However, what’s not known to most is the time it takes to establish complete encryption on a system and the possibility of lowering the system performance. This was especially true for financial institutions as most were reluctant to apply encryption where reliability and speed were of utmost importance and the forecast impact on their system was not clearly known.

Does this mean access control would be the better pick? Some would undeniably argue that access control provides flexibility with ease of deployment, something encryption does not offer. And as such maintain a system’s high performance while securing data from unauthorized access. While access control is considered to be a security tool, it’s over-emphasized on convenience is the main reason why hackers always manage to bypass ‘security checks’ and still get their hands on sensitive data. Trading convenience for security isn’t exactly the best choice either.

Through years of long competition with each other, access control and encryption security have both been used and are still considered to be suitable security methods up to this day. Although, evidently, security and breaches have also come a long way since then.

Access Control and Encryption Today

I think it’s safe to say that neither encryption is overtly better than access control, or vice versa. While both have its strengths, there are also weaknesses to securing sensitive data by applying one and not the other. For example, in 2017, a memory stick containing the Queen’s sensitive information on the escape route paths, patrol timetables, and security IDs in case of a terror attack was found in Queen’s Park by a random stranger. The news made headlines around the world, questioning security measures taken to properly ensure such highly-classified information is guarded well. Though an investigation was launched and no damages other than the data leak was sustained, the question remains. Could stringent access control had prevented this from happening? But as the saying goes, to err is human.

In essence, access control should not go without encryption. While encryption might cause a slower performance rate, it is better to be safe than sorry. Continuous research and development in the field of security have helped bridge the gap between the two methods. Nowadays, various types of encryption methods which do not impose a heavy burden on the overall performance rate are available for deployment. On top of that, applying access control over the system will also double the security level, an ideal solution to have for all.

The Ultimate Data Security Solution

MyDiamo was thus created out of the concept of providing ultimate data security while maintaining the level of performance. Access control can be customized to allow only encryption or decryption authority, and sometimes even both. Financial institutions will no longer need to worry about the unpredicted impact encryption will have on its system nor risk the possibility of insider abuse by only implementing access control. Not only is MyDiamo easily deployed with no added modification required, database encryption, access control, and auditing are all the imperative functions that complete this comprehensive security software package.

And as far as encryption goes, partial encryption up to the column level is application to safeguard data the smarter way. This allows easier management especially now when data has become part and parcel of our daily lives.

While it is regrettable to say that information leakage is inevitable, certain measures can still be taken to prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. The choice is up to you.

Peter Cha
Peter Cha
Content crafter at MyDiamo- an encryption solution for open source databases.
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