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Beating a Card Isn't Hard

13 September 2013 | Updated 01 January 1970

In many industries, security and dependability are at the forefront of customers’ minds. Jon Mooney and Dave Bulless, security experts for Ingersoll Rand in the US and UK respectively, discuss the benefits of biometric technology.

The key challenge for offsite storage and information handling facilities has always been to provide employees and customers with immediate access while at the same time, producing a level of security commensurate with the value of assets being protected. Clearly, a simple card based system, where cards can be lost, or stolen, is not the answer. You cannot rely on your customers to remember their card each time they visit your facility.

Many forward thinking organisations are rightly reassessing their security options after realising that card based systems no longer provide the required protection or the level of convenience to meet their needs. For data industry leaders, when assessing the questions of physical access control, the overwhelming answer is biometric technology.

Hand recognition readers, in particular, provide a level of security beyond that of a conventional card system by verifying the identity of the person. At the same time, they eliminate the burden and expense of a card based system.

For some, hand readers sound like the stuff of Bond movies but the reality is, this is where security teams arguably need to be focusing their efforts. Hand readers make up a large percentage of biometric access control applications. They are complementary, as each meets specific needs of the market.

Biometric hand reader technology presents an ideal option for many organisations. Due to its accuracy and speed with which user identification can be assessed, it provides essential control without slowing the flow of a large group of people. By scanning the shape and detail of an individual’s hand it offers a truly unique record.

Typically, larger installations use biometric hand readers at the entrance, on the security corridor and at individual customer areas. Administration of the system is handled by software which can be tailored to the client’s specific requirements, including remote enrolment for multi-facility management and expiring privileges for temporary access. The hand readers interface directly with their access control panels and can be configured to control a lock independent of a panel.

The set up process for adding someone to a hand reader system, is simple. Once a person has enrolled in the hand reader software, the system creates a similar account in the primary access control system and the user’s hand effectively acts as a badge. The hand reader then compares the hand template with the stored biometric template triggered by a card or pin and if it matches, sends an output representing the badge or pin number to the primary system. The primary system then decides whether the person is allowed entry.

The reality is that although biometrics is arguably the most secure option in terms of people and assets, many still do not understand the mechanics behind it and often perceive it as a threat in its own right.

 The fundamental point about hand recognition readers is that they recognise people, not plastic cards. This is paramount for organisations which require a high level of assurance that people are who they claim to be and absolutely critical to the prevention of unauthorised access to hardware and critical information. They provide an additional layer of security for sensitive areas, ensuring that lost or stolen cards are not later used to access facilities. Crucially, they ensure that ‘you are you.’

Biometrics, such as hand readers, do not require any details about an individual other than their name.  Details of home addresses, bank account numbers or other personal information, are not stored in any file or database. The measurements taken of an individual’s hand are simply converted through a unique algorithm into a number which is what is stored in the database. In fact, even if someone picked up the PC that the software is stored upon and walked off with it, it would offer up no personal information whatsoever.

It must also be remembered that in the main organisations will be using biometrics once individuals have pre-registered within their facilities, either as employees or contractors. The finger, palm, iris or face is then used merely to confirm the individual is who they say they are and genuinely does require access.

Biometrics is used across the construction industry in the UK and could solve many of the problems that British universities face in terms of the enrolment of foreign students. 

There’s no doubt that there are data protection issues in many schools and other organisations, particularly in relation to personal information, addresses and other confidential information from social services for example. But, biometrics is not part of this problem and should not be lumped together with wider computer security issues.

The reality is that biometrics is safe, cost effective and it does what alternatives, such as card based systems cannot do, and that is keep people and assets fully secure. The fact is, whether you are an educational institute, or a data organisation, investment in the right security technology is vital. Biometrics is not the problem. In fact, in security terms, it is the answer.

Article written by ThisWeekinFM | Published 13 September 2013


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