During the past holiday season Target reported that up to 110 million customers had their credit card information stolen by unknown parties. Neiman Marcus also discovered that over 1 million of their customers may have had their credit card information stolen during the same period of time. Some Marriott, Sheraton and Westin hotel customers also reportedly had similar thefts of credit card information. These are big numbers and affect a lot of people.
Credit cards are the most popular system today for making purchases. Fewer people are carrying check books or a large amount of cash. It is much easier and quicker to hand the cashier a credit card. The use of plastic identification cards extends past credit card usage. Like most people, my wallet is filled with credit cards, insurance cards, discount cards for food and hardware stores, a AAA motor club card and a card to operate the access control system at the Locksmith Ledger offices.
For the last decade Locksmith Ledger has featured many articles on the movement towards electronic security. That movement will continue but for the moment card makers are being pressed for answers to the series of security problems which have recently emerged.
Card systems such as Target uses are controlled by a national network. Apparently the thieves broke into the network which allowed immediate access to millions of customers. Building access control systems are often controlled locally and less susceptible to allowing thieves to access a large amount of personal information. Damage can still be done and losses can occur. A UK locksmith brought a ‘black box’ to a recent ALOA show and demonstrated how easily an access control card could be cloned in seconds.
The march towards access control using a cell phone or plastic cards will go on. Improvements will be made and thieves will continue to probe for weaknesses in electronic security systems. That is the nature of the game.
There is one constant which will not change. The mighty mechanical pin tumbler lock has proven itself over many years of usage. When a door is locked, it’s locked. There is no guessing. Electronic gizmos will not secretly unlock the door without signs of damage. The public has a product which they know is dependable. As long as there continues to be any doubt about electronic security products, key-operated locks will rule the roost.