Everything You Need To Know About User Groups (But Were Afraid To Ask)

User GroupsHonestly, it’s sometimes hard not to miss the days with administrators had complete control over all the software and hardware within their organization. It made keeping things secure so much easier. There was no worrying about a bungling employee accidentally forwarding corporate secrets to a competitor, or someone making off with business-critical data.

No worrying about shadow IT, and the fact that people who know almost nothing about enterprise security are expected to be responsible for keeping your business’s information safe.

But times change, and we need to change with them. Instead of focusing on securing the user, we need to focus on protecting critical data. We need to ensure we’re able to keep sensitive documents safe no matter where they go.

File-centric DRM is a big part of that – being able to dictate how and where your files are accessed. But taking control of who can access them is just as important. And in that, effective use of user groups – a security function that comes by default with most systems – is equally critical.

I’m going to assume you’ve already got a handle on all the technical details here. Instead, what I’m going to focus on is a little bit more practical. You already know how to designate groups – but what exactly should you do with that knowledge?

But as an administrator, aren’t you already expected to know that? If you ask, couldn’t that make you look the fool in the eyes of management? Don’t worry – I’ll explain all the gritty details here, so you won’t need to.

Organize Users Based On Their Roles

First thing’s first – when figuring out different groups to place your employees into, consider the different roles at your organization. The sales team, for example, might need direct access to all marketing and advertising materials, while Human Resources will probably need to access personnel information like payroll data or employment history. Your first step, therefore, is to establish a working knowledge of what every department in your business absolutely needs in order to function effectively, and go from there.

Limited Access Isn’t Always A Bad Thing

In relation to the above, no one should have access to files that aren’t critical for their work. Every time you consider extending a group’s privileges, you should first ask yourself why. Do they really need this for their job, or does expanding their capabilities put your business at risk?

Groups Don’t Mean You Won’t Have To Manage Individual Users

Every business is going to have bad eggs. Maybe an employee is frustrated that someone got promoted ahead of them, or angry that they’re getting laid off. Maybe someone’s account ended up getting hacked, and a bad actor is using their compromised credentials to get their paws on something sensitive.

Either way, while user groups should be a default component of your approach to security, using them doesn’t preclude having to occasionally reach out and tweak specific accounts. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can simply manage everybody as part of a whole.

The More Users With Root Access, The Less Secure You Are

In a perfect world, you should be the only one with complete control over and access to your business’s data. You should be the only one with administrative privileges. Because here’s the thing – the more people who are handed that authority, the higher the chances that one of them might end up being a weak link.

Group Up

That’s … pretty much all there is to know, honestly. You’ve already got the technical knowledge. Now you’re equipped with the practical stuff, too.
Even if you can’t exert complete control over how your employees work, that counts for something.

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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