Redefining Access Control

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Larry Anderson

Our exclusive survey ponders the changing role of access control as the security industry converges and transforms.

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“It is becoming the foundation for a security solution that incorporates video as well as audit logs for secured areas such as server rooms, patient records, drug storage, etc.,” says Scott Lord, vice president, All Systems.

“[There is a] change from ‘who’ is allowed access to: should they be allowed access?” says Steve Day, director, “In other words, the metrics or business rules for allowing access will become more integrated with business intelligence systems.”

Other comments about the importance/benefits of access control include:

  • “It is proactive.”

  • “It is still the clearinghouse for all system-wide security events.”

  • “It manages the database of system users, system devices and system annunciation.”

  • “It is the heartbeat of a total security management system.”

  • “It provides data retention and mustering capabilities.”

Some respondents see the role of access control from a broad perspective. “Access control authorizes authenticated credentials to access resources,” says Will Harmon, principal security engineer, PlaSec Inc. “This information is important to many organizational business functions such as building evacuation, HVAC systems, physical access to restricted spaces and remote network access.”

The future of access control systems will likely depend on their ability to adapt to changing technology needs. “To support business outcomes, access control must form part of the new business intelligence systems that are gaining prominence,” says Day of “Systems that remain separate from these are dead in the water as they won't be part of the reporting systems that will become the main source of strategic information for business.”

One end-user respondent shared a specific example of the importance of access control. “In our situation, we are moderately regulated for hazardous chemicals, pathogen safety, transportation (import/export) and safety control of products,” says Jim Schuyler, security systems specialist, Gambro BCT Inc. “Further, as one of the Best 10 companies in Colorado to work for, the feeling of a secure environment that cares about the safety and welfare of its employees was a critical element in securing that designation. Access control play[s] a large part of the employee comfort level on the campus.”

A supplier respondent sees access control as the second most important part of a physical security system, next to video. However, “to get the most out of your security system, access control and video go hand in hand,” says Brian Pinnock, sales engineer, GE Security.

All in all, the “importance [of access control] is increasing day by day with increasing security threats and the evolving complexity of security requirements,” says Mitja Kolbe, time and space international business development manager, Spica International.

But in the end, access control is “only as important as the company makes it,” says Bob Wethington, management of access control and electronic security, Washington University, St. Louis. “If you don't have total buy-in from the top down, both financially and organizationally, what have you accomplished?”

Access control as a central point of integration

Today's security systems are more integrated than ever. Historically, for better or worse, the access control system has come to be the central point for that integration. Respondents to our survey generally expect that trend to continue, although some point to forces at work that could change that outlook.

“[Access control] is central in that it relates all facility databases,” Wethington comments. “It has the capability to be earmarked for all relative and general information with regard to buildings, facilities and/or institutions. No other system is tied to all quantitative systems within an organization.”

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