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access governance (AG)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Advances in access governance strategy and technology

Access governance (AG) is an aspect of information technology (IT) security management that seeks to reduce the risks associated with end users who have unnecessary access privileges. The need for access governance has grown in significance as organizations seek to comply with regulatory compliance mandates and manage risk in a more a strategic manner.

An important goal of access governance is to reduce the cost and effort that’s involved in overseeing and enforcing access policies and management procedures, including recertification. To this effect, access governance software tools can help track access, validate change requests, automate the enforcement of role-based access control (RBAC) or attribute-based access control (ABAC) policies and simplify reporting.

Many access governance software applications combine access control (AC) with identity management capabilities, enforcing a standard set of access rights for business roles while remaining flexible enough to accommodate the needs of super users. Because the software provides transparency, it becomes easier for managers to spot privilege creep and enforce the principle of least privilege (POLP).

In some organizations, the responsibility for access governance is shared by managing members of the organization’s information technology (IT), business and legal teams. Because privileged users continue to serve as a primary vector for security breaches, it’s important for managers to have visibility into access and work together to mitigate risk and decrease the organization’s attack surface. When access governance becomes a cross-departmental effort, the organization becomes better at staying on top of changing regulatory requirements, adhering to internal policies and conducting access reviews on a regular basis. 

This was last updated in October 2016

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