NIST Special Publication 800-53 (Rev. 4)

Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations


Access Control
P0 - Unspecified priority.
Baseline Allocation:
Low Moderate High

Control Description

The information system implements a reference monitor for [Assignment: organization-defined access control policies] that is tamperproof, always invoked, and small enough to be subject to analysis and testing, the completeness of which can be assured.

Supplemental Guidance

Information is represented internally within information systems using abstractions known as data structures. Internal data structures can represent different types of entities, both active and passive. Active entities, also known as subjects, are typically associated with individuals, devices, or processes acting on behalf of individuals. Passive entities, also known as objects, are typically associated with data structures such as records, buffers, tables, files, inter-process pipes, and communications ports. Reference monitors typically enforce mandatory access control policies - a type of access control that restricts access to objects based on the identity of subjects or groups to which the subjects belong. The access controls are mandatory because subjects with certain privileges (i.e., access permissions) are restricted from passing those privileges on to any other subjects, either directly or indirectly - that is, the information system strictly enforces the access control policy based on the rule set established by the policy. The tamperproof property of the reference monitor prevents adversaries from compromising the functioning of the mechanism. The always invoked property prevents adversaries from bypassing the mechanism and hence violating the security policy. The smallness property helps to ensure the completeness in the analysis and testing of the mechanism to detect weaknesses or deficiencies (i.e., latent flaws) that would prevent the enforcement of the security policy.

Related to: AC-3AC-16SC-3SC-39

Control Enhancements