The increased functionality of modern systems has expedited the use of access control in business and residential applications. While every access control process will include the ability to grant or restrict entry to a secure area, innovative technologies can also record access attempts, identify users, and customize authorization standards. 

Entry controls often utilize a combination of hardware, software, physical barriers, guards, and administrative policies to maintain the desired level of security. To choose the most appropriate system for your application, you must understand the functions you need to accomplish and evaluate the available implementation strategies. 

The Authorization Process

Not all access control measures extend equal levels of protection or the same functions. Your needs will determine which features you need to achieve the right level of security. 

Every access control system includes some combination of the following: 

  • Authorization is the process of assigning clearance credentials. You choose authorization qualifications based on the role or position, need, and company policy. System administrators then assign credentials based on the privileges allowed. Establishing appropriate policies and procedures around access control is a key step in preventing a security breach. Allowing the wrong authorized person into a secure area can be more devastating than an unauthorized person breaching a system because increased access provides both time and opportunity for theft. 
  • Authentication is a system for accepting or rejecting presented credentials. You might hire a security guard to check identification or install hardware and software, allowing an employee to swipe a badge or key card. The authentication process will compare the presented credentials with a pre-approved list to validate authorization. The system will authenticate an individual using a code, password, PIN, smart card, fob, key card, or biometric measures, such as a fingerprint or voice recognition.   
  • Granting access occurs when a user presents authenticated credentials.  
  • System management provides administrative control over access to secure areas. The administrator can assign access codes, cancel credentials, and monitor access to secure areas within the system. In many cases, you must integrate multiple systems to achieve the level of security desired. For instance, a medical office might install an access control system to monitor the exterior of the building, allowing all current staff members to enter. A secondary system could provide cabinet-level security, which might differentiate access based on the contents of the cabinet or drawer. The billing department might only have access to patient files whereas RNs can open cabinets storing medications.    
  • Audit features deliver real-time data on activity occurring within a secure area. An audit trail will record who presents credentials and track acceptances, rejections, and system failures. 

Choosing Access Control Features Based on The Security Function

Access control systems can include a range of valuable features. Different measures offer varying benefits and levels of protection. For example, a homeowner might install a gate to keep out uninvited guests. Then install security cameras, alarms, and an electronic lock at each exterior entry. For interior security, the owner might place a locking system on a medicine cabinet, drawer containing valuable jewelry, and cases containing collectibles or firearms. 

Each security measure presents a different function, and when combined, delivers a superior level of security throughout the entire space.

Choosing the Right Features Based on the Function

  • Preventive access control measures focus on stopping unauthorized access from occurring. Systems utilized often include security guards, fences, gates, locks, smart cards, data classification, encryption, antivirus software, dual authentication, immediate relock upon open, unlock delays, selective open control, and policies around who should have the authority to enter which secure areas.  
  • Deterrent access control measures discourage violations. Systems can include intrusion alarms, security cameras, trespass warnings, guard dogs, security guards, voice warnings, and auto relocking features.
  • Detective access control measures discover unauthorized activity or security breaches. The system activates after a breach occurs and investigates the event. Measures can include motion detection, review of video recordings, examination of an audit trail, mandatory evacuations, violation reports, and incident investigations. 
  • Corrective access control measures restore systems after a violation occurs. Common measures include canceling and reissuing credentials, upgrading antivirus or malware software, reviewing intrusion detection procedures, updating backup systems, and business continuity planning to bring systems back online. 
  • Recovery access control measures repair damage and restore capabilities after a system violation. Recovery measures can include accessing backup systems, turning over data to law enforcement, utilizing protections through data or asset separation, and public relations efforts to control damage caused by the security failure.  
  • Compensatory measures provide backup systems in the event that the first line of defense becomes compromised. Backup software systems, security cameras, power supply overrides, and VM shadowing can provide compensatory actions in the event of an initial security failure. 

Implementation Strategies

Once you decide the functional capabilities required to protect your home or business, you must also choose an implementation strategy. Implementing access control decisions center around three key areas: technical access, physical access, and administrative access. 

  • Technical access involves hardware and software systems used to manage access to secure areas. Systems typically include a reader and control panel to store data, and smartcards, fobs, passwords, or biometrics presented by the user. Other technical access can include features such as intrusion detection, firewalls, encryption, dual authentication, and delayed openings, to name a few. 
  • Physical access controls include physical barriers to entry created by individuals, equipment, or systems. Common barriers include gates, fences, security guards, alarms, motion detection, sealed windows, and locked doors. 
  • Administrative access control utilizes directives and policies to manage and control authorization for entry into secure areas. These policies, procedures, and guidelines determine who gains the credentials needed for access.  

Final Thoughts

Using the appropriate methodology to determine which access control measures and systems you require will, in turn, determine the strength and complexity of your all-encompassing access control system. Combining the befitting functions with your system management, authentication, and authorization needs can create an integrated access control system that will prevent and deter unauthorized access. Advanced systems can also deliver the detective, compensatory, and recovery functions needed, should a security breach occur. 

Senseon access management systems increase administrative control, offering individualized access for cabinet-level security needs. You can customize credentials down to the individual drawer or door, with an audit trail that will both deter and detect irregularities.