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DAC vs. MAC — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 25, 2023
DAC (Discretionary Access Control) allows owners to grant access, while MAC (Mandatory Access Control) restricts access based on adherence to a policy, typically managed by admins.
DAC vs. MAC

Difference Between DAC and MAC

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Key Differences

DAC and MAC are critical in computer security, controlling who gets access to resources in a system. In the context of DAC, the resource owner decides who can access a particular resource and the type of access they have. MAC, contrastingly, depends on predefined policies, usually enforced by the system administrator, and does not give the resource owner the discretion to determine access permissions.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023
Where DAC allows users to have a level of autonomy, enabling them to grant access permissions to other users or groups, MAC operates on a more stringent policy. DAC allows resource owners to establish access controls, which might facilitate information sharing among users, whereas MAC establishes access controls that adhere to a strict policy, potentially limiting information sharing but enhancing security.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023
While DAC provides a level of flexibility and ease for users to manage resources in a system, it can pose a risk by allowing data to be accessed by unauthorized or less trustworthy entities if the owner grants permission. MAC, in its rigid adherence to policies and through its restriction of access based on classifications and not user discretion, tends to be more secure and ensures that only authorized individuals gain access to data, as defined by the policy.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023
Focusing on ease of implementation, DAC, due to its discretionary nature, is typically easier to implement and manage for the average user, allowing them to quickly allocate resources as needed. MAC, with its layered, policy-driven approach, might be more complex to implement, but it ensures a systematic, policy-compliant access control mechanism across various data classification levels.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023
Considering environments where they might be applied, DAC could be suitable for less security-intensive applications where ease of use and resource-sharing are paramount. MAC is generally deployed in environments where security is paramount, like governmental or military systems, where data access needs to be tightly regulated and controlled.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Access Control

Given by resource owners
Regulated by strict policies
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Nov 25, 2023

Implementation Ease

Generally easier for users
Can be complex and systematic
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Nov 25, 2023

Security Level

Can be lower due to discretionary control
Typically high due to policy adherence
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Nov 25, 2023

User Autonomy

High, users can determine access
Low, users can't typically alter access
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Nov 25, 2023

Typical Use Case

Environments prioritizing sharing
Environments prioritizing stringent security
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Nov 25, 2023

Compare with Definitions

DAC

DAC allows flexibility in managing access to resources.
Through DAC, a project manager might give different access levels to different team members.
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Oct 11, 2023

MAC

It’s applied where stringent data security is paramount.
Military systems often utilize MAC to ensure data security.
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Oct 11, 2023

DAC

It may expose systems to security risks if improperly managed.
Weak DAC policies might inadvertently allow data breaches.
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Oct 11, 2023

MAC

MAC restricts access based on policy, not user discretion.
MAC ensures only HR can view confidential employee data.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 11, 2023

DAC

DAC can dynamically allow users to share resources freely.
DAC enables a team leader to grant file access to team members.
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Oct 11, 2023

MAC

It adheres to predefined policies governing data access.
Under MAC, users can’t grant access to classified files.
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Oct 11, 2023

DAC

It gives owners the discretion to determine resource access.
Using DAC, Sarah can allow Mike to edit her report.
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Oct 11, 2023

MAC

MAC categorizes and controls access to data systematically.
MAC prohibits a regular employee from accessing classified information.
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Oct 11, 2023

DAC

DAC allows resource owners to decide access permissions.
DAC permits a document owner to authorize colleagues to view it.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 11, 2023

MAC

MAC doesn’t allow owners to alter access permissions.
MAC maintains predefined data access controls, unaffected by owner preferences.
Tayyaba Rehman
Oct 11, 2023

MAC

Used as a form of address for a man whose name is unknown.
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Oct 06, 2023

MAC

A mackintosh.
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Oct 06, 2023

MAC

Clipping of mackintosh
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MAC

Clipping of macaroni
Is there any mac and cheese left?
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Oct 06, 2023

MAC

Shortened form of Macintosh, a brand name for a personal computer; as, the latest Mac has great new features.
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Oct 06, 2023

MAC

A prefix, in names of Scotch origin, signifying son.
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MAC

Shortened form of mackintosh, a waterproof raincoat made of rubberized fabric.
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MAC

A waterproof raincoat made of rubberized fabric
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Oct 06, 2023

Common Curiosities

How does user discretion differ between DAC and MAC?

In DAC, users can set permissions, granting or restricting access to resources. In MAC, access permissions are determined strictly by system-wide policies, not individual users.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

What do DAC and MAC stand for in computer security?

DAC stands for Discretionary Access Control, and MAC stands for Mandatory Access Control, each representing a different access control model.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

What’s the primary user benefit for DAC versus MAC?

DAC offers users more autonomy over resources and sharing, whereas MAC provides stricter, more standardized security through its predefined policies.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Which model, DAC or MAC, is generally considered more secure?

MAC is often considered more secure due to its strict, policy-enforced access controls, while DAC may pose higher risks if users manage permissions improperly.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

How does resource sharing differ in DAC compared to MAC?

DAC allows for potentially easy and flexible resource sharing among users. MAC restricts resource sharing to adhere strictly to predefined access policies.
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Nov 25, 2023

In which model, DAC or MAC, is access determined by user roles?

DAC doesn’t inherently use user roles for access decisions. In contrast, MAC often utilizes roles or classifications to enforce access policies.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Which model, DAC or MAC, is typically more cost-effective?

DAC, with its discretionary and potentially less complex setup, might be more cost-effective to implement, while MAC could be resource-intensive due to its rigorous policy adherence and setup.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Can DAC and MAC be implemented simultaneously?

While DAC and MAC have unique characteristics, some systems may utilize aspects of both, often referred to as a hybrid access control model, balancing user flexibility and policy adherence.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Which is easier to implement: DAC or MAC?

DAC is generally simpler to implement, given its user-based discretion for access, while MAC may require meticulous policy and classification setup, making it potentially more complex.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Are DAC and MAC suitable for all kinds of data?

DAC might be suitable for non-critical data requiring flexible access. In contrast, MAC is suited for sensitive or classified data needing stringent access control.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Are DAC and MAC applicable to specific types of organizations?

DAC might be favored in collaborative, dynamic environments. MAC is commonly applied in organizations needing stringent data security, such as military or government entities.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

How does data classification impact DAC and MAC?

In DAC, data classification may not significantly impact access control, while MAC heavily relies on data classifications to determine and enforce access policies.
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Nov 25, 2023

Can both DAC and MAC handle large-scale organizational structures?

DAC might become complex in very large organizations due to its discretionary nature. MAC, while potentially complex, can ensure standardized access control in large-scale entities by adhering to centralized policies.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

How does the revocation of access rights work in DAC and MAC?

In DAC, access rights can be modified or revoked by the resource owner. In MAC, alterations to access rights generally require changes to the overarching policies, which are typically managed by administrators.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

Can DAC and MAC be utilized in cloud computing environments?

Yes, DAC and MAC can be utilized in cloud environments, with DAC often offering flexible, user-managed access, and MAC providing strict, policy-enforced access control to cloud resources.
Tayyaba Rehman
Nov 25, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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