Data security is an ongoing concern for anyone managing a data warehouse. Organizations need to control access to data, down to the granular level, for secure access to data both internally and externally. With the complexity of data platforms increasing day by day, it’s become even more critical to identify and monitor access to sensitive data. In many cases, sensitive data is co-mingled with non-sensitive data, and access restrictions to sensitive data need to be enabled based on factors like data location or presence of financial information. There may also be nuances where data is sensitive for some groups of users, while for others, it is not.
Today, we’re pleased to announce the general availability of BigQuery row-level security, which gives customers a way to control access to subsets of data in the same table for different groups of users. Row-level security (RLS) extends the principle of least privilege access and enables fine-grained access control policies in BigQuery tables. BigQuery currently supports access controls at the project-, dataset-, table- and column-level. Adding RLS to the portfolio of access controls now enables customers to filter and define access to specific rows in a table based on qualifying user conditions—providing much needed peace of mind for data professionals.
“Our digital transformation and migration of data to the cloud magnifies the business value we can extract from our information assets. However, granular data access control is essential to comply with international regulatory and contractual requirements. BigQuery row-level security helps us comply with data residency and export restrictions,” says Jarrett Garcia, Iron Mountain’s Enterprise Data Platform Senior Director. “It enables us to manage fine-grained access controls without replicating data. What used to take months for approval and access provisioning can now be done more efficiently and effectively. We are looking forward to implementing additional data security capabilities on the BigQuery roadmap to address other critical business use cases.”
How BigQuery row-level security works
Row-level security in BigQuery enables different user personas access to subsets of data in the same table. Customers who are currently using authorized views to enable these use cases can leverage RLS for ease of management. To express the concept of RLS, we have introduced a new entity in BigQuery called row access policy. Row access policies map a group of user principals to the rows that they can see, defined by a SQL filter predicate.
Secure logic rules created by data owners and administrators determines which user can see which rows through the creation of a row-level access policy. The row-level access policies created on a target table by administrators or data owners are applied when a query is run on the table. One table can have multiple policies applied to it.
Below is an example, where row-level access policies have been created to filter data based on users’ “region”.
In the illustrated scenario above, row-level access policies have been created to verify a querying user’s region and to give them access only to the subset of data relevant to that region. Access policies are granted to a grantee list which support all types of IAM principles such as individual users, groups, domains or service accounts. In this example, when a user queries the table, row-level access policies are evaluated to assess which, if any, policies are applicable to that user. The group ‘sales-apac’ is granted access to view a subset of rows where region = ‘APAC’ whereas the group ‘sales-us’ is granted access to view a subset of rows where the region = ’US’. Likewise, users in both groups will see rows in both regions, and users in neither group will not see any rows.
Row-level access policies can also be created using the SESSION_USER() function to restrict access only to rows that belong to the user running the query. If none of the row access policies are applicable to the querying user, the user will have no access to the data in the table.
When a user queries a table with a row-level access policy, BigQuery displays a banner notice indicating that their results may be filtered by a row-level access policy. This notice displays even if the user is a member of the `grantee_list`.
When to put BigQuery row-level security to work
Row-level access policies are useful when you have a need to limit access to data based on filter conditions. The row-access policies’ filter predicate supports arbitrary SQL, and is conceptually similar to the WHERE clause of a SQL query. Filter predicates support the SESSION_USER() function to restrict access only to rows that belong to the user running the query. If none of the row access policies are applicable to the querying user, the user will have no access to the data in the table. Currently, the column used for filtering must be in the table, but we anticipate adding support for subqueries in the filter expression, opening up access to use cases where data is filtered based on lookup tables and calculated values.
Row-level access policies can be created, updated and dropped using DDL statements. You will be able to see the list of row-level access policies applied to a table using the BigQuery schema pane in the Cloud Console, which simplifies the management of policies per table, or by using the bq command-line tool.
Row-level security is compatible with other BigQuery security features, and can be used along with column-level security for further granularity. Since row-level access policies are applied on the source tables, any actions performed on the table will inherit the table’s associated access policies, to ensure access to secure data is protected. Row-level access policies are applicable to every method used to access BigQuery data (API, Views, etc).
Try it out
We’re always working to enhance BigQuery’s (and Google Cloud’s) data governance capabilities, to provide more controls around managing your data. With row-level security, we are adding deeper protections for your data. You can learn more about BigQuery row-level security in our documentation and best practices.
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