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Access Control Systems

Many medium to large businesses have been moving or looking at moving to electronic access control systems to solve their security problems. Frequently these use RFID or other wireless/contact keys (or cards) to grant access. It is important that businesses evaluate all the positives and negatives of any system to make sure it fits their needs. Any supplier or vendor will be happy to sell the positives of these systems so we will primarily mention some of the issues they can have.

These systems generally have a very large upfront cost for implementation. Infrastructure of network and power must be run to all controlled access doors. Frequently door hardware must be replaced, and a central system established. In addition, these systems frequently require several backup power options or they may become insecure (or a hazard) in the case of power loss. Cards or badges must be issued to and kept on each employee.

Maintenance on an electronic access control infrastructure can also be problematic with access to wires or devices being limited. In addition, it is frequently quite easy to disable or destroy interfaces at doors, causing a denial of service for other users.
Many wireless/card authentication systems (frequently RFID or similar) have been compromised and are at the basis of most electronic access control systems. Please see our page on wireless/keyless authentication for more details.

There have been several man-in-the-middle and endpoint attacks on common electronic access control systems. This includes the ability to capture and replay valid credentials, allowing unauthenticated users access to sensitive systems without any baseline access. Additionally, bugs can be planted in and behind card readers (either destructively or passively many times).

Finally, almost all electronic access control systems feature a keyed backup at some or all doors. The introduction of mechanical cylinders (which are very rarely high security cylinders) is another vulnerability in most electronic access control systems.
At the end of the day we are not saying that access control systems are bad. In fact, many businesses find them absolutely necessary. We do not generally sell or provide recommendations on access control systems (we are certainly not experts in the field), but we do encourage customers to ask vendors questions about possible systems.

We do currently sell and maintain Abloy Protec Cliq systems. These are a hybrid electromechanical access control system that does not require infrastructure setup and does not use cards or wireless keys for authentication. It does offer many of the benefits of a traditional electronic access control system, but in a much different form. For more details please see our page on the Abloy Protec2 Cliq.