Table of contents
Importance of permission management
Managing permissions in applications is necessary for several reasons. Mainly to prevent any unwanted access to your application. A good example to understand the importance would be the first day of an intern. You don't want your interns to have access to your production environment. If they ended up deleting something important, your entire application might experience downtime.
Similarly, if one of your employees has left the organization, you wouldn't want them to have access to your application's code or infrastructure. This is where permission management comes into play. You can set up RBAC(Role-based Access Control) or ABAC(Attribute Based Access Control) to control who has access to your applications, and what actions can they perform.
The difficulty with Authorization management
In the above section, we talked about why you need to set permissions. Now let's talk about what difficulties come with setting them. Many challenges come with setting up permissions. Organizations are moving to a cloud-based architecture that involves using a ton of microservices to connect their applications. While the cloud-based architecture has a lot of benefits, it also requires the development of authorization solutions so that users and services can seamlessly, and securely access business applications. This introduces many challenges which we will look into below.
Lack of Developer Expertise
Developing an authorization framework requires a unique set of skills that developers need to acquire from scratch. These sets of skills include permission management best practices, access control models, considerations of performance, security, a human-readable interface and so much more. Creating an Authorization framework cannot be taken lightly as even a small mistake can lead to a critical security risk. If the solution does not work as expected, the entire framework will have to be redone in the future.
A Good UX
If you have worked with Kubernetes permissions, you know how messy your terminal can get. This can make it difficult to keep a track of what you've done which can lead to incorrect permission assignments. Hence, it is important to have a clean and concise UI that is easy to understand and use. Incorrect usage due to bad UX can result in severe security implications. Moreover, it makes it easier for non-developers to assign permissions without needing to know how to use a CLI.
The goal of an authorization framework is to ensure that only permitted people and systems can get access to your applications and assets. If anyone could access your applications, there is a huge risk of data breaches which can have major legal, financial, and business implications. While dealing with authorization frameworks, it's important to make sure that it can handle the most advanced types of authorization and permission management if required. Along with that, third-party applications should not be able to gain elevated access. In the past, there was a GitHub bug that allowed third-party applications to gain elevated access which had huge security implications.
Industry and government regulations require various authorization settings and capabilities. The authorization framework needs to comply with them, build trust with customers, and enable operational readiness.
Staying up-to-date with new Technologies
New technologies are coming out every day. This is especially true in the cloud-native ecosystem. Along with that, new attack capabilities are also growing. An authorization framework needs to be able to keep up with the ever-growing and changing ecosystem to ensure that technical changes don't require building it from scratch.
Time and Resources
This is a common one. Building any sort of framework is going to need a lot of time and resources. This includes research, development, testing, and maintenance. Sometimes the framework needs to be redeveloped which takes more time. When building an authorization framework is not the core expertise of the developer, it takes even more time. In addition to this, there are not a lot of high-quality resources for this, which makes the learning process even more challenging.
Cross Company Frustration
The development of an authorization framework sits at the crossroads of developers, DevOps, security, and product. Due to a lack of expertise, external pressure from customers, and the growing number of cyberattacks, all stakeholders are frustrated with the difficulties of building and maintaining such a framework. In addition, product managers specifically are finding it difficult to get developers to prioritize authorization features until they’re urgent and can’t wait any longer.
How does Permit.io ease the problem
Permit.io is an open-sourced full stack authorization framework that can be easily implemented into any product with little to no knowledge about authorization. All the components, back-office, and interfaces required for developing end-to-end application level authorization are already built in, including all experiences and conversations about authorization. This makes Permit.io a comprehensive, secure, and future-proof solution for developers.
Developers using Permit.io can remove all the fundamentals required to build and manage authorization from their task list, and then delegate most of the ongoing work to the other stakeholders (e.g. Security, Compliance, Product) via low-code/no-code interfaces. Built on open-source and GitOps-enabled, Permit.io is a secure and reliable solution that can be adapted to any policy needs.
How does it work?
To set up permissions for your team using Permit.io, you only need a few clicks to set up and manage your team's permissions using Permit.io. You can separate your production, testing, and development environments using namespaces and assign permissions in those namespaces accordingly. Let's take a look at how it works internally.
Once you've set up your permissions, it gets updated in Permit.io's PDP in real-time. A PDP is a policy decision point, meaning it decides whether a certain action is allowed or not. Let's say that we have given read and write access for your backend service to Developer A.
Now that you have your permissions set up, Developer A (End-user) wants to access the application's backend service to make some changes. They will log in to their account and try to access the service. This request will be given to your applications API, which will then ask Permit's PDP if this user has access to the service, and what type of access they have (only read, or read and write access). The PDP will send a response that this user (Developer A in this case) has to write access and allow them to access the backend service. Now Developer A can see the backend service and make whatever changes they want to.
On the other hand, let's say an intern logged into their account and tried to access the same backend services. However, you configured your permissions so that the intern cannot view the service. Hence, once your application API gets a response from Permit's PDP, the internal will get an 'Access Denied' message.
What makes Permit.io unique?
- UI - Permit.io provides a user interface for all users to enable simple and easy use. Other companies provide an application-level solution, with no UI.
- Real-time - Permit.io synchronizes data in real time to enable monitoring and decision-making. Other companies do not provide real-time capabilities.
- Hybrid model - Permit.io enables companies to store the data exclusively on their locations for separation of the control plane and the data plane. Other companies require the data to transfer through their servers.
- Standardization - Permit.io is built on tried and true authorization standards. Some other companies build their solutions from scratch.
- Policy support - Permit.io supports multiple role types. Other companies support only a complex form of RBAC.
- Scope - Permit.io provides a full-stack solution supporting multiple use cases. Other companies provide a limited interface lacking capabilities like policy modeling, advanced policy creating, and automated sub-use cases.
Who is this product aimed towards?
Permit.io is a tool aimed at developers and compliance-aware SaaS companies such as FinTech, Healthcare, etc.
Permit.io allows developers to easily manage their application's permissions across multiple workspaces from a simple UI interface. This saves developers and security teams the headache of mismanaged permissions and lets them develop their applications without having to worry about managing user permissions.