As security breaches and hacks are being reported daily, there is a growing awareness of the fallibilities of conventional security technologies and a heightened demand for better methods of access control.
Locksmiths recall the bump key episodes where the claim was set forth that most of the keys and locks protecting us were little more than child’s play to defeat. Then there was the headlines reporting that vehicle transponders could easily be cloned, rendering the majority of automotive security electronic ineffective. While both these claims were exaggerated and distorted, they focused the public’s attention on improving security.
Most recently, a rumor circulated that a readily available electronic device can be used to silently read and duplicate the typical proximity credentials used for electronic access control.
In fact, most credit and debit cards rely on magstripe technology which has been around the longest, and is perhaps the most vulnerable of all credential technology, but is still actively deployed.
No security technologies are perfect, especially those technologies used for non-defense applications. The coming trend is that high technology credential technologies are trickling down from the military into the civilian security marketplace.
In cost-driven markets, decisions are made based on factors other than ideology. The majority of electronic access controls systems are installed into non-residential sites such as industrial, educational and municipal, all facing strict budget limitations.
One of our customers, a state university, has been using magstripe photo IDs and there are no plans to change.
Another client, who although technically is part of the state system but has the ability to make its own decisions, recently decided to transition away from magstripe to proximity readers and credentials. This decision was reached for a few reasons. For one, the facility knew that magstripe was not the latest technology. Another factor was they were having recurring problems with the magstripe readers because the contact between the credential and the reader tends to shorten the life of both the credential and the readers. Finally, this school did not have a huge population of credentials distributed. These factors all added up to their move to proximity.
Another client, a library, used a couple of mechanical keypads. Last year we installed 32 cameras for them. So now they are moving up from a single PIN code for all the employees to standalone proximity with audit trail. The video surveillance system actually fortifies the security posture of the premises, and proximity, although not a future proof solution, certainly is a step up and will significantly improve security.
A defense contractor client has been using a combination of technologies for their many doors. But they also have guards and cameras. Although their readers are proximity, their credentials were upgraded to multi-technology as part of the corporate security policy. Other members of the corporate family use FIPS compliant smart cards.
A municipality has adopted a plan where they have deployed traditional proximity credentials but all new access control doors are equipped with multitechnology readers, providing for a timely transition as funds and heightened security requirements develop in the future.
Multitechnology permits enhanced features such has two factor and mutual authentication, and multipurpose credentials which have proven very effective for many end-users
Most security experts agree that two-factor authentication could be a key enabler to help them achieve these goals. Still, many are reluctant to deploy this stronger form of authentication due to cost, complexity and the burden on users to carry yet another item, such as a token or a USB device.