Expert advice

Digital security: A guide to your system's permission strategies

Patrick Vigeant

Patrick Vigeant

Architecte de solutions chez Witify

In today's digital world, permissions management does more than simply lock down sensitive data; it shapes the user experience and protects against unauthorized access. Understanding permissions is crucial, whether you're a seasoned system administrator or simply curious about how information is secured and accessed in your organization. This article breaks down the concept of permissions into three understandable levels:

  1. Level 1: Global permissions
  2. Level 2: Resource-specific permissions
  3. Level 3: Resource filtering

These three levels provide an effective model for designing a safe and efficient digital environment.

Level 1: Global permissions

The first permission level is the foundation of any permissions management system. It defines what each role can access globally, without delving into the specifics of individual resources. Think of it like the entrance keys to a building: some keys open all doors and all floors (administrators), while others only open specific doors (employees, project managers).

Global permissions include access to large areas of the system, such as :

  • Dashboard: A general dashboard accessible to all employees for a quick overview.
  • Billing access: Reserved for financial roles to manage accounts and payments.
  • Third-party service management: For administrators configuring integrations with other external services.
  • Global Settings: An area generally reserved for administrator roles to configure the system as a whole.
  • Support page: A contact form dedicated solely to system customers, and not to internal staff (employees, etc.).

These permissions are assigned according to the user's role in the organization, ensuring that everyone has access to the tools and information they need to perform their tasks, without compromising the security of sensitive data.

Permissions de niveau 1
Level 1 permissions

Global permissions management is essential for securing access to functionalities and data throughout the organization. It ensures that users have the necessary tools at their disposal, while limiting access to information and functionalities not relevant to their role. This approach reduces the risk of data leakage and helps maintain order in complex systems.

Level 2: Resource-related permissions

Sub-level a) General access to a resource

Continuing our analogy with a building, if level 1 allows you to enter the building and access certain floors (global permissions), level 2 is the equivalent of having the key to a specific room. This key gives you the right to enter areas such as the folder room, where you can see all available folders, create new ones and use filters to sort them, without having access to any particular folder.

This means that users with this permission can interact with the resource in a general way (e.g. create a folder), but without interaction with specific instances of that resource (e.g. folder #ABC123).

Sub-level b) Specific access to a resource instance

Going further into the building, access to an instance would be like having not only the key to the file room, but also the access code to a specific locker in that room. This allows you to interact with a specific instance of the resource (for example, modify a specific folder). This level of permission is particularly important, as it needs to be finely tuned to ensure that users can accomplish their specific tasks without exceeding their access rights.

In a digital context, this translates intopolicies that define access and authorized actions on specific instances, based on the user's relationship with that instance. For example, a project manager might have the right to modify general information about the folder #ABC123 for which he or she is responsible, but not to change the folder's assignments without the approval of an administrator.

Permissions de niveau 2
Level 2 permissions

This permission level demonstrates the flexibility and granularity of modern permission management systems. By enabling fine-grained access controls, organizations can ensure that their employees have the tools they need to be productive, while maintaining a high level of security and control over sensitive data. It's like giving every person in the building the exact access they need, no more and no less, to do their job effectively.

Level 3: Resource filtering

Let's continue with our building analogy to explore level 3, resource filtering. Now imagine that, in our building, each room (resource) contains several racks (resource instances). Access to these lockers is determined not only by possession of a key (permission to access the resource), but also by the right to view or interact with particular lockers, based on specific rules (filtering).

This level of permission represents the filtering of resource instances accessible to a user, according to his or her role or other specific criteria. For example, in our digital building, an administrator may have the right to see all lockers in the file room (all instances of the resource), while a team manager can only see lockers that have been assigned to members of his or her team (role-based filtering) and the file manager can only see files assigned explicitly to him or her.

Filtering ensures that users are only exposed to information relevant to them, reducing the risk of inappropriate access to sensitive data and improving efficiency by eliminating unnecessary noise.

Permissions de niveau 3
Level 3 permissions

Resource filtering is the equivalent of entering a warehouse room and having a robot fetch only those lockers to which the individual would have access, avoiding being lost in the excess or accidentally stumbling across unsafe lockers. This approach illustrates the importance of not simply granting access to a resource, but ensuring that access is precisely tailored to the needs and authorizations of each user.


Having explored the three levels of permissions, it's important to understand how to maintain and manage these permissions effectively to ensure both security and smooth operations within your organization. Let's continue with our building analogy to explore these aspects further.

Maintaining permissions

Imagine that, over time, people move in and out of your building (organization), new rooms are built and new lockers are added. Likewise, people's roles change, requiring adjustments to their keys and access rights. Permission maintenance, in this context, means regularly checking and updating keys and access codes to ensure that they still correspond to current needs.

  • Regular auditing of permissions: such as checking that door locks are working properly and that the right people have the right keys.
  • Update following role changes: Ensure that when someone changes role within the organization, their keyring is updated accordingly.

Permission matrix

A permissions matrix is an invaluable tool for visualizing and managing permissions within your system. Imagine a detailed map of your building showing which roles have access to which rooms and lockers under which conditions. This matrix helps to :

  • Quickly identify inconsistencies: Spot poorly locked doors or lost keys.
  • Facilitate adjustments: Like reprogramming a lock or duplicating a key for a new team member.

Role management

Effective role management is crucial to maintaining order and security in your digital building. This involves :

  • Adding and removing roles: such as building new rooms or demolishing others, requiring the distribution or recovery of keys.
  • Adjusting role permissions: Modifying access rights to adapt to changes in the organization or in security requirements.
Lorsqu'on ajoute un nouveau rôle, il est nécessaire d'auditer les permissions actuelles et les rôles assignés à travers votre organisation.
When adding a new role, it is necessary to audit current permissions and assigned roles across your organization.

Multi-tenant model

Some platforms are nicknamed "multi-tenant". This feature arises when the main platform is used to host access to several sub-organizations or sub-customers, who will benefit from access to platform functionalities with their own account. In parallel, there are global administrators who manage all the organizations.

When designing multi-tenant platforms, bearing in mind that certain key users will have access to the data of several organizations, but that the data of one organization is extremely sensitive and must not be seen by another organization, it becomes essential to draw up a clear permissions matrix.

Indeed, many permissions are dynamic, depending on resource assignments beyond their initial role. The matrix will thus provide a clear understanding of the interactions between the various roles, and ensure controlled access while maintaining the platform's dynamism.


Permission management in a management system or digital product is a vital element of security and operational efficiency. Using our building analogy, we've seen how permissions control access to different parts of your system, ensuring that each user has the tools and information needed for their role, while protecting sensitive data.

Like a building, permissions management requires constant attention, regular adjustments and monitoring to ensure that everything is working as intended. By investing in rigorous permissions management, you're not only building a more secure working environment, but also one that's more efficient and better adapted to your team's needs.

Patrick Vigeant

Patrick Vigeant

Architecte de solutions chez Witify

Patrick Vigeant est cofondateur et architecte de solutions chez Witify. Spécialisé en technologie, il se consacre depuis plus de 10 ans à concevoir des solutions digitales innovantes et à développer des systèmes de gestion sur-mesure. Particulièrement chevronné en architecture de solution, il conçoit et outille les PMEs d'une infrastructure technologique personnalisée axée sur l'efficience et l'efficacité. Enseignant le cours Web Analytics de 2e cycle au HEC, Patrick apprécie partager les dernières tendances numériques et garder un contact avec le milieu académique. Finalement, il s'implique dans sa communauté d'affaires en tant que Président de la Relève d'Affaires lavalloise.

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