Understanding RBAC vs ABAC

Understanding RBAC vs ABAC
Understanding RBAC vs ABAC

What is RBAC and ABAC?

RBAC gives out predefined roles that have a specific set of privileges is associated with them and the subjects that are assigned. This method is used for broad range applications and getting multiple roles in quickly.

ABAC is a procedure that runs on the concept of fixed rules. It runs on a complex Boolean rule structure so they can evaluate different attributes. Since it’s a fine-course procedure, expect to use this when addressing the specific roles to your users.

When Should I Use RBAC vs ABAC?

Now that we know the major differences between the two models, we can find the best practices to use and when. While they are both complex subjects, here are some simple ways to know when its the right time to use them.

RBAC Comes Before ABAC

As a rule of thumb, one should use RBAC before using ABAC because, at the core, the controls are just filters or searches. The larger and more complex the search, the more time and processing power it will take.

The more users your organization has, the better the processing impact will have due to the increased size in search space.

Use Less

If you’re making a lot of complex RBAC/ABAC filters, then you’re probably doing something wrong. You should plan in advance to help structure your directory data in a way that creates complex queries.

But, there will be situations where you’ll have to be creative and create some access control, but this should be an exception and not the rule.

Divide and Conquer

You can use both RBAC and ABAC in a hierarchical approach. For example, you can use RBAC to control who can see the modules you’re using. Plus, you can use ABAC to control the access of what they do or see inside that module.

This method is similar to WAN and LAN firewalls, where the WAN works with the coarse-grain filtering. The LAN framework, uses fine-grain inspections.

When implementing these tools, your access control is a set of different policies that ensures you have access to the right applications, systems, and resources. So whether you use ABAC or RBAC, a good solution will help you define what your users can do with applications by providing the procedures to see what technique is the best for you.

RBAC (Coarse-grain access control) and ABAC (fine-grain access controls)

If you want to make a broad stroke of access control decisions, you should use RBAC. For instance, giving the teachers or contributors access to email or Google. When you need to make quick decisions under certain conditions, then use ABAC. An example would be giving school teachers access to Google if they are in School X and are teaching in Grade Y.


When you’re picking a RBAC vs abac application, you have to decide which one is suited for your situation. For instance, get an RBAC application for broad range roles and ABAC for defining the user functionalities. Once you get a hold of both systems, you will have no problem improving the structure and utility of your employees.

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