What is multilevel security, and why does it matter?

Sara Ana Cemazar
March 21, 2023
min read

In today’s world, organizations must be conscious about protecting data and safeguarding the exchange of information. On top of that, digital transformation has become ubiquitous, covering everything from the organization's top-secret business leads to unclassified day-to-day operational information. 

With this level of digitization, the risk of cyberattacks also comes to the fore.

A multilevel security (MLS) approach is crucial in privacy-conscious organizations prioritizing data security. It enables unhindered collaboration while maintaining the highest security levels. Making data security airtight, it also restricts access to information for a particular person or group. 

Since a single security system often cannot guarantee safety from data breaches, the multilevel security approach has become the fundamental requirement for securing an organization's data

In this blog, we take a closer look at this approach.

What is multilevel security?

Multilevel security is a system designed for data security based on an organization's hierarchical categorization of information and personnel. 

The two primary goals of multilevel security are as follows:

1. Prevent unauthorized access to information

2. Deter individuals from declassifying information.

Individuals or users are granted necessary clearance/authorization to access certain information at the beginning of MLS deployment. 

multilevel security

This access varies from individual to individual, depending on the level of authority they hold in the organization. 

Multilevel Security: Its effective implementation

There are two ways multilevel security can be implemented in your organization:

1. A self-sustaining system capable of protecting itself from sabotage of data and has an inbuilt mechanism to separate information domains.

2. A third-party computer application that can ensure advanced security on a fairly protected device/computer.

Why does the multilevel security approach matter?

Here are some important benefits of this approach:

Dedicated systems for each security level

Having all information of different security levels saved in a single system can be a major data security threat for the organization. To prevent this, organizations invest in dedicated systems for each security level as a part of their multilevel security approach.

Restricted access to information

An additional tool is also used to enable users to access information at different security levels simultaneously without fearing information contamination.

Unconventional methods

Additionally, the multilevel security approach uses unconventional methods, which prevents unauthorized users from breaching the system using the traditional Structured Query Language (SQL).

Row-level security

Multilevel security relies solely on itself to provide row-level security, further improving data security. With MLS, you don’t need to redefine each user’s classification level and authorization. 

In this context, using a secure communication app for sharing information can also improve data security.

Who does multilevel security benefit the most?

Though multilevel security is a fundamental requirement for organizations, it is important to understand which organizations can benefit most. 

Usually, organizations such as defense/military, intelligence agencies, special forces, and areas of police service require multilevel security. 

These organizations deal with sensitive information at every step; leaks of such information or cyberattacks on government organizations may pose a significant threat to the nation. 

Therefore, Multilevel security can be considered a force multiplier of government cybersecurity. 

Some concerns regarding multilevel security

A multilevel security approach has multiple benefits and is critical in bolstering data security. However, several concerns also need to be addressed: 

High expense

The MLS approach can be expensive, from choosing a trusted MLS operating system, maintaining & updating data regularly, and hiring appropriately trained staff for managing the operating system to costs incurred on software maintenance and updates.

Data sanitization

Another significant problem faced in a multilevel security system is data sanitization, which basically means removing sensitive data from a document or other messages. Users with a lower clearance level can easily share files with their superiors, but their superiors with a higher clearance level will likely face difficulty sharing and sensitizing data.

Absence of certified products

People believe no certified products exist to create a secure and efficient MLS system. According to research conducted by the Computer Security Intermediate Value Theorem (CS-IVT), many systems operate in an environment with unequal data security levels.

multilevel security

Multilevel security: complex, but necessary

Evidently, government cybersecurity measures and privacy-conscious organizations must explore the benefits and opportunities of leveraging multilevel security. 

However, with so many available options, choosing the best option that offers a comprehensive solution, delivering robust security and flexibility simultaneously, is difficult. 

Open-sourced communication and collaboration platform Rocket.Chat has advanced security and federation capabilities that allow the easy and secure deployment of the MLS approach. 

Rocket.Chat: Collaborate securely with multilevel security

With Rocket.chat, organizations can easily set up departmental and ethical security walls for users in the same environment with different access levels and controls. 

With this highly-customizable and industry-grade multilevel security approach, you can easily create unconnected secure domains within your organization for each department. 

Also, Rocket.Chat has extensive experience with government agencies in the US that have a crucial requirement for MLS, and we also serve up to IL7.

Learn more about how Rocket.Chat can help your organization protect its data.

Get started with Rocket.Chat’s secure collaboration platform

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Sara is an SEO Strategist at Rocket.Chat. She is passionate about topics around digital transformation, workplace experience, open source, and data privacy and security.
Sara Ana Cemazar
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