The King’s credentials and how to choose the right one for your business

Apr 15, 2021

Over 3000 years ago during times of war, Egyptians encountered difficulty in passing messages between their king and generals. A general would send a messenger bearing some vitally important update on the war effort to the king (“we’ve run out of arrows, please send more!” or similar), only to find the gatekeeper guarding the kings court had never set eyes on the messenger before, had no idea who we was, and didn’t believe a word of what he was saying (simply rolling his eyes and sarcastically saying “yes, yes, of course you need some more arrows…” 🙄).

So, the Egyptians invented a credential, something the messengers could carry that would provide evidence to the gatekeeper so that it didn’t matter whether or not the gatekeeper knew the person seeking entry, that credential gave the person authority to enter. And alas, the concept of using a physical credential for access control was born!

Fast forward to modern history and access control came in the form of a laminated identification card that was checked at the door by a security guard, until technology finally caught up and the electronic access credential was invented. There’s now a head-scratching plethora of access credentials on the market to choose from, so if you want to give your staff something a little more secure and a little less cumbersome than a small statute of a gold cat to prove their authority to gain entry to your building, read our handy guide below:

PIN CODES

A code and a keypad are one of the most basic and affordable methods of access control and tend to be the first choice for many building managers. But the most undesirable attribute of codes is that it is relatively easy for a bystander to read the code as it’s being entered, and then suddenly the secure PIN code credential has been duplicated so that now there are two people that know the code that was intended for just one.

Plus, the Uber Eats driver knows the code because there’s always one fool who give out his code for something as important as a 6-inch Sub at lunchtime! And from there the number of people who knows the code multiplies and multiplies until you have no idea who is accessing the building and your access control database is in ruins…

There is one benefit though to codes and that is that they can be used without needing to carry a physical credential. An example of this is providing the emergency services, such as the fire brigade responding to an alarm with ad hoc access into your building, and in the process denying them resorting to using their preferred method of entry which is a grinning junior firefighter swinging an axe.

PIN codes can also be used to great effect in conjunction with physical credentials such as a proximity fob (see below). This is one of the original forms of two-factor authentication that require users to provide something they know (a code) as well as something they have (a fob) to deliver a much higher barrier to entry for intruders.

PROXIMITY CARDS AND FOBS

This is by far the most popular form of access credential: a small key tag or credit card style credential that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to transfer information to a credential reader to grant access. They are relatively cheap and very reliable, convenient to carry, and the printable credit card style options can double up as an ID card for staff. However, not all proximity credentials are equal and there is a multitude of vendors available supplying different technologies and formats; some of which are far more secure and reliable than others.

So, what should you look for when selecting a proximity credential for your access control system? Firstly, you need to get a little bit technical and look at the frequency of the proximity credential. 125 KHZ (low frequency) cards have been around since around 1990 and have little or no encryption and can be easily duplicated by anyone with access to a $10 eBay RFID scanner (seriously, Google it 🤯). For relatively little extra cost the higher frequency 13.56 MHZ proximity credentials provide a far higher level of security and can be encrypted to prevent duplication.

Secondly, choose your vendor. HID are the leaders in proximity technology, but at Red Flag Systems we prefer the Inner Range SIFER products as they’re a global company started from humble beginnings here in Melbourne. Avoid anything that’s ‘no-name and no-brand’ as there are some terribly cheap and nasty imports available that are far less secure or reliable.

And finally, be very careful about who you choose to supply your proximity credentials. Whilst high level of encryption in access cards create a barrier for criminals to hack your system, they also provide unscrupulous security companies with the ability to hold you to ransom to their services long into the future. There are some real horror stories out there of buildings having to throw away their existing cards and replace them with new just to get out of being locked into services with some so-called security Experts!

MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES

Cards, fobs, and codes?… We may as well be back in ancient Egypt when compared to the current demand for everything to be fully accessible on our smartphones, and access credentials are no different. With over 95% of the adult population between 18-44 years of age carrying a mobile phone, they are a very convenient and very secure form of access credential. Using near field communications (NFC) or Bluetooth they provide what is called three-factor authentication requiring a user to provide something they know (a PIN code), something they have (a phone) as well as something they are (biometric such as face ID or fingerprint).

There are a few caveats though to this technology. Firstly, everyone needs an up-to-date phone for the system to work, and I’m sure we all know at least one person who’s still operating on iOS 8.1.4 🙄 and has their phone battery levels perpetually hovering below 4% 😰. Plus, there’s a little more cost and admin required to maintain the database of users. But don’t let this put you off, smartphone technology is here to stay and is likely to become a mainstay for access control in the near future.

BIOMETRICS

Ok, we have saved the fanciest and most controversial option to last. Facial recognition, hand geometry, fingerprint and iris readers, retinal scans, voice prints and palm readers (not to be confused with clairvoyants) are all different type of biometric readers that can be used for access control.

And this is the amazing part: every human body is so unique that bits of it can be used to confirm identity with far more accuracy than any other form of credential. And the technology has come leaps and bounds, so what was once only the domain of high-security mission-critical corporations due to the exorbitant price tag, is now readily available at a relatively reasonable cost.

But as with mobile technologies, it is not without a few problems. For one, reliability can be an issue and it only takes a few greasy fingers smudged onto a fingerprint reader to create a que of frustrated office workers unable to get into a building. Plus, there is a lot of hyperbole at the moment around ethics and security concerns (some valid and some not-so) about facial recognition technology and the storing and recording of people’s faces in a database.

From our perspective, biometrics are a great form of credential, but until the technology, the laws and public opinion have fully aligned it may be best left for some of your most high security applications such as communications rooms or sensitive areas of a facility.

This is just a start and we’ve only skimmed over some of the most basic forms of credentials here. Access control technologies continue to expand with an ever-growing list of options available for allowing building managers to let the good guys in and keep the bad guys out. If you need more advice on how best to manage the flow of people into your building, give us a call on 1300 685 504.

The King’s credentials and how to choose the right one for your business

There’s a head-scratching plethora of access credentials on the market to choose from, so if you want to find out how to provide your people with secure and reliable access into a building, read our guide

Latest crime statistics reveal huge drop in robberies

This week the Crime Statistics Agency released their 2020 crime figures which showed that whilst there was an overall increase in crime of 2.3%, property and deception offences dropped by 12%, and robberies by a whopping 28%.

How do we detect intruders? With intruder detectors of course…

Opportunists, prowlers, smashers, or professionals. There are many types of intruders, but they all have one thing in common and that is that they most definitely should not be gaining access to your business, and they need to be detected immediately.

Melbourne Is Back! And So Are Our Maintenance Services…

The shackles are off Melbourne, we are free! Well, free at least within a certain radius from our homes and only with a limited number of people. Oh, and let’s not forget the permanent face coverings, the work permits and check points… But apart from those few things, we are back.

How laziness changed time and why you need to check your security system.

Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase "early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise" and advised Parisians to get up earlier during the summer months to economise on the use of candles. He proposed this be enforced by the ringing of church bells...

Can a security system really help make your workplace healthier and safer?

Seemingly, the continuing threat of the Coronavirus is something that may be around for some time into the future. And while many are holding out hope of a vaccine to get life back to normal, there is speculation that maybe things might not get quite back to the way...

Prevention is better than cure!

“A stich in time saves nine”, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and our personal favourite “intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them”. That last quote is by Albert Einstein, and while we’re not going to draw comparisons between us and one...

A safe approach to work is not found by accident

Work Safe, Home Safe. A simple motif in the construction industry but it sends a powerful message – if you do the right thing, you don’t take short cuts and you work safely, at the end of the day you (and your fellow work colleagues) will go home to your family safely...

How security systems can help remotely manage workplaces, safely and securely

The world is currently in the grips of a crisis, the likes of which has not been experienced in our lifetime. And like many businesses, not only in Australia but around the globe, it's likely that your business is experiencing some huge changes to it's...

Can a security system really help combat crime and climate change?

I recently watched Sir David Attenborough’s Climate Change documentary. It was shocking to say the least. “Our greatest threat in thousands of years” David calmly proclaimed in his trademark awestruck hush voice. "It may sound frightening, but the...
commercial security systems Red Flag Systems logo

1300 685 504

Suite 120, 7/225 Lonsdale Street, Dandenong
 

Get in touch with us

We are your Melbourne to Mornington Peninsula commercial security systems experts.  Contact us to find out how we can improve your business or home security today.

Request a call back

4 + 1 =

Proud members of ASIAL and we share their commitment to promoting standards and raising the level of professionalism within the security industry

We are Cm3 certified so that our clients can be confident that Red Flag Systems have OHS/WHS systems and processes for working safely, monitored by Australia’s leading pre-qualification contractor system