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The Best Way to Approach Access Control

November 11, 2015

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What kind of access control would you prefer? Passwords and PINs or a microchip implanted in your hand? Would you prefer a solution that is convenient, or a solution that is extremely secure? Or maybe you hark for the days of a good old traditional lock and key.


Wherever your place of work, it’s likely that at some point, access control affects your working day. It might be as simple as entering the front door, or maybe specific rooms within the building. You might need access control to authorise printing, open a locker or log-in to a computer. There are a number of scenarios in which access control is required in the workplace and equally a number of different ways that access can be controlled. But which ones are the best, and which ones are the worst?

Time to pass on passwords

A traditional way of controlling access has been to use passwords or PINs. The office building can be entered by anyone privy to the 4-digit code. It’s a more convenient solution than providing everyone with an office key. But that’s about all it has in its favour. While no physical key can be lost using a pin code – it is not the hardest authentication for unauthorised personnel to discover. When everyone in the building uses the same code – there are too many points of attack – it only takes a slip up of one person to make everyone vulnerable. Of course – the code can be changed on a regular basis to combat its discovery, but its convenience is severely hampered when employees are required to remember a new code or password every month.

Cards are a smart way to go

A solution that has advantages over passwords and PINs is the use of smart cards. There are many different kinds available on the market: Magnetic Swipe, RFID, MiFARE contactless and bar code, all of which we can use here at BioStore in our solutions. Smart cards start to hit on what we believe is key to the best forms of access control. They start to link access control to identity management. When authentication starts to consider identity – it’s more flexible and more secure. Different employees can have different permissions granted depending on their needs and responsibilities.

Man and machine as one

The weakness of smart cards is of course that they can be lost or stolen. Identity fraud can be committed too easily. One Swedish company has come up with a way round this problem. The company Epicenter, instead of using RFID smart cards, has taken to implanting the RFID chip directly into its employee’s hands. Ouch. In this way – they get all the advantages of a smart card solution with none of the drawbacks. Employees don’t need to swipe a card but instead, just swipe their hand. This is no doubt the most peculiar access control method on this list. In theory, it’s a very clever, powerful and secure solution. Personally, I would want it to remain a theory if I worked there. Once the chip is in, the solution is very convenient. Setting it up – not to mention withdrawing it – is a process I’d rather not think about though.


So if you’re like me and don’t fancy becoming a cyborg just to gain access to your workplace: how about biometrics? The biometric access control we use here at BioStore is fingerprints. Registration into the system is not quite as invasive and involves just a simple scan. Then users are handed an authentication method that is both extremely secure and convenient. It’s an authentication that is linked to identity in an incredibly powerful way. No one can steal or replicate your fingerprint. And you can’t ever forget it or lose it. Access to a building, into a locker, to log-on to a computer, to print a document can all be achieved with a simple fingerprint scan. All the benefits – none of the drawbacks.

Mix and match

Of all the different approaches, it’s not surprising that we here at BioStore believe in biometrics the most. We also advocate the use of multi-factor authentication too though. For extra security, even if it hampers convenience, using two different means of authentication is a great solution. Biometrics combined with unique pins and passwords for example. Asking for more than one unique identifier is the way to go for protecting the most valuable resources.

BBC: Office puts chips under staff’s skin

BioStore: Access Control

BioStore: Multi-factor authentication

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