One Card To Lock Them All Down

Brendyn Lotz explores how companies are blurring the lines between physical and cybersecurity.

South Africans are more familiar with physical security in the office than most. Few workplaces aren’t locked down with some form of access card entry point, or fingerprint reader for sign-in. We’re not so good when it comes to cybersecurity, though.

Would we be better at protecting our digital goods and workplaces if the tools to protect them were the same as the ones we use to swipe in at the turnstile?

Many companies are starting to look at ways of using the same tap-and-go type cards we use to open doors at work to secure office networks too. It’s a security technique that’s already common in retail stores or public-facing government departments such as Home Affairs, where an identity card has to be swiped or inserted into a reader attached to a computer or point-of-sale machine in order to log the staff member on.

It’s not so common in offices yet, but, says director of Blacklight Consulting, Kelly Mclintock, integrated access control is straightforward to set up. “Access control  systems are already integrated into your back-end systems as an active directory. From there an employee can use their access control card that they use to get into the door every morning to unlock their work machine,” says Mclintock.

Where the most development is currently taking place, however, is in the role of biometrics for access control.

Accessing the future

Many of us already use biometrics to access our phones, in the form of a fingerprint reader integrated into the handset. Ofentse Ngobeni, of ERS Biometrics, says its use is about to become more common.

“If you look at the latest iPhone X, it’s packed with biometric authentication, and the technology is just going to get better,” says Ngobeni.

Falling prices for sensors and the cloud-based software that bring multiple access systems together are helping to drive the growth in a market described by Transparency Market Research as “Access Control as a Service” (AcaaS). It believes global demand for high-tech systems such as this is growing at 12.8% year-on-year.

It’s early days yet, though, and being the first to delve into any new aspect of technology can be pricey, says Mclintock.

“If you implement this technology right  now, you are paying for research and development. You need to weigh up whether you’re willing to pay the cost of a data breach or whether you want peace of mind.”

That isn’t to say there aren’t any affordable solutions, but fingerprint readers, for example, need to be reliable and designed to comply  with personal privacy laws if they’re going to be a long-term solution.

And who knows, as technology gets better, we might see more novel approaches to security. With Apple’s decision to move away from fingerprints to facial recognition for its next iPhone, who’s to say your office front door won’t soon do the same?

Protecting data

Biometric information such as fingerprints or facial recognition may seem a perfect way of authenticating someone’s identity for the purposes of letting them into a building or a network, but such systems also come with a lot of responsibility. If someone loses their access card or password, it’s easy to issue a new one and revoke the one that was lost.

If biometric information is compromised, however, getting new fingerprints or an iris to scan isn’t so easy.

The best fingerprint systems, for example, combine a smartcard with the scanner. The fingerprint details are stored in an encrypted format on the card, not on a centralised database which might be vulnerable to hackers. Scanners match fingerprints to the data on the card and don’t store the fingerprint itself.

 

Image: ©iStock - 627812840
Businesswoman pressing scan bar code high technology.

You might be interested in these articles?