Key management in the spotlight

July 2015 Access Control & Identity Management, IT infrastructure

Keys have been with us in a business and personal capacity for centuries. And while we often tend to look at the exciting technology that allows us to avoid physical keys and unlock doors and gates with biometrics, for example, keyless locks are still the exception.

Every business has a key problem. Often we tend to ignore the problem and provide keys to offices and sensitive areas to people we trust, or we leave the key with someone in the expectation that they will manage who gets hold of them and for what reason. This is often acceptable in smaller companies, but what about larger concerns, or those that need to keep sensitive documents or costly goods (or people) locked up?

Key management today is no longer a case of having your secretary keep the keys in her desk drawer and only hand it out to people she considers acceptable. It has become a science in itself, combining best practices and technology to allow companies to accurately control their keys, who has them, when they took them and when they were returned.

To find out more about the current state of key management in South Africa, Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked a few experts in the field for their input into this critical, yet often ignored area. We wanted to know about the latest developments in the field, as well as the uptake and necessity of key management today. Our interviewees are:

* Nick Loake from Traka Africa.

* Johan van Zyl from Amaya Industries.

* Venetia King from Zonke Monitoring Systems.

* Fernando Pires from Morse Watchmans.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Is key management a real issue in business today? Don’t organisations usually let the PA handle the keys?

Nick Loake: In today’s business, unfortunately, the issue of key management is a very real problem. When a conventional key is stolen, mislaid, or inadvertently taken home, your security is compromised, blame gets shifted and accountability cannot be pinpointed. Your organisation is suddenly at risk, even if nothing is stolen and no damage done; the cost and inconvenience of fitting new locks and the impact on productivity can be significant.

In many organisations, ranging from financial institutions to the mining sector, the control of keys was done by security guards or PAs with the use of a manual register. This would lead to problems of false information being supplied, keys being passed off to other employees and no record of keys being returned.

Johan van Zyl: A key is probably the single most important, yet often overlooked tool in any business today. It allows access, mobility and much needed security to daily operations. Without it, productivity comes to a grinding halt. You think loadshedding is bad? Wait until you lose a key.

Key management therefore forms an integral part of all management functions; be it HR, financial, marketing, IT, operations or strategic management. All of these are under constant threat. That doesn’t begin and end with South Africa’s spiking crime stats, though. The latest buzzword doing the rounds is ‘workplace democracy’. This practice allows for workers, including the PA, to become more involved in management functions. Not necessarily a bad thing, however, rushing into this trend could give rise to numerous issues.

In today’s electronic era, a business needs more than vigilance and diligence to thrive. It needs a robocop to keep watch over assets and resources around the clock. It needs a fully automated key management system.

Venetia King: For a very long time, key management has not been taken seriously by South African businesses. As a result, security issues such as information security and compliance to regulatory requirements, especially in the gambling, banking and mining industries have not been taken seriously. Due to increased competitiveness of the South African business world, more companies are now starting to take a conscious decision to secure their information as well as their assets. This starts by securing the keys to office buildings, safes, etc.

There is a need to be aware of who took the keys and when were those keys brought back. This not only provides companies with comfort that their assets are secure, but also provides an audit trail should something go wrong.

The days of letting the PA handle the keys are gone. All employees in every office building need to be responsible for their own space and assets entrusted to them by the business. To this end, key management systems make this responsibility a lot easier to achieve.

Fernando Pires: Key management is more of a priority issue than ever in business today, especially with the focus on security in the workplace and on campuses. In fact, an essential element of a risk management strategy is having an effective system for the management of keys used for securing and overseeing the facility.

When sensitive keys go missing, it can necessitate a very expensive re-keying of the facility – and of course there is also the possibility of the key being used for malicious purposes. Unguarded access as a result of mismanaged keys can potentially cause businesses to lose expensive or sensitive items and can compromise the safety of employees.

Automated key management systems remove the human factor when dispensing keys. When an authorised user needs to access a key, they simply input their pre-registered PIN code or scan their card or fingerprint to unlock the tamper-proof cabinet. Stored keys are attached to a locking mechanism with a microchip containing a unique serial number that is read by the system to identify which key is being removed or returned. All access activity is automatically recorded.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What are the benefits of a proper key management system? Who needs one?

Nick Loake: The benefits of having a proper key management system is that it will significantly reduce the cost to an organisation of losses through accidental damage, theft, personal injury and downtime. It helps enforce your business processes and ensures health and safety compliance. Traka’s products make users accountable for the assets they use; it reduces management risk and improves efficiency in any organisation.

Any organisations dealing with asset management issues e.g. manual registers will benefit from a trusted key management system.

Johan van Zyl: An automated key management system will:

* Eliminate human error.

* Increase security and productivity.

* Do away with labour intensive manual key registers.

* Centralise and automate the administration of keys.

* Protect keys against abuse and theft, reduce the risk of data breaches and monitor protection.

* Release keys to authorised persons only, provide an ongoing and up-to-date audit trail of all key-related events.

* Identify who has a key at any given time, drastically cut down on key replacement costs.

* Offer peace of mind.

Automated key management systems are customised to clients’ specifications making it viable for just about any size and type of business. SA government, aviation, banking, healthcare, mining, and motor industries, as well as small and medium enterprises all benefit from the system.

Venetia King: There are various benefits of a proper key management system:

* There is full accountability of keys for every employee in the building.

* It also enables businesses to avoid human errors in the case where keys have to be signed in or out manually.

* It provides an audit trail of who took the keys, when those keys were brought back, espec­ially when entering sensitive areas or areas where sensitive information is stored.

* It also enables businesses that have key control as a regulatory requirement, become compliant by automating reports and providing accurate key control records.

* Any building requires a key management system as all buildings with doors are likely to have keys. Whether these keys are physical keys or proximity cards, etc., the need to secure them is a great one.

Fernando Pires: There is still a tremendous range of conventional applications for key control systems and these devices are exceptionally cost effective. They provide an immediate improvement to safety and security, and are very easy to implement.

Another important benefit is the system’s capability to store and record as well as run reports of the access history of each key, including user, date and time of checkout/return. The reports eliminate the guesswork when tracking lost or overdue keys, or investigating incidents.

Because of the added security value they provide, every business that uses physical keys (of all types including room keys, machine keys, vehicle keys, etc.), should have a proper key management system. Key management systems eliminate outdated lock boxes, unreliable manual logs and messy key identification tags, all of which have the potential to compromise security.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What processes need to be implemented in an organisation when implementing a key management system?

Nick Loake: Within any organisation there can be different levels of security and authority. When implementing a key management system into a new organisation, there are a few initial steps and processes that need to be followed.

It begins with allocating one or more administrators to manage and audit the transactions of the assets, grouping and allocating the keys into the required positions and then allocating the users with the required access levels. This ensures that only authorised staff are allowed access to the keys. The system automatically records when a key is used and by whom on a central database.

Johan van Zyl: In a society where our livelihood is under constant attack, be it due to e-tolls, the rising fuel and food prices or our alarming unemployment rate, it is understandable that employees are nervous about the slightest change in the workplace. When the word ‘automation’ is mentioned, employees fear retrenchment and/or being forced out of their comfort zones. Although neither is the case with automated key management systems, care should be taken when introducing the system and its benefits to employees in order to make the transition process as smooth as possible.

Specifics about keys and levels of access for each custodian need to be established with management. It is also important to form and maintain good rapport with the client’s appointed software administrator as this person will be handling the loading of keys and personnel onto the system. The administrator will also act as liaison between the client and the supplier should queries arise.

Venetia King: Most businesses would have some sort of process in place for key control. When implementing a key management system, the system provider has to look at the current process and simply automate that process to avoid manual or human intervention. Training would have to be provided to ensure that there is a smooth transition from the manual process to the new automated process. The rules of the business would have to be taken into account and integrated into the key management system.

Fernando Pires: Knowing the identity of authorised key holders, which keys they have or have access to and when they were used, is all essential information needed to help ensure a safe and secure environment. The following simple steps can help in developing an effective key control implementation plan.

1. Do an inventory of all the locks in the facility and their corresponding keys.

2. Determine who has keys and to which locks.

3. Add new locks as required to help ensure adequate security.

4. Review operational needs to identify who may need access, where and when, as well as any special needs (i.e. documentation requirements, mobile capability).

5. Decide on system configurations and installation locations based on organisational operation and facility need.

6. Develop a key control policy to define areas of responsibility.

Key management system vendors are a good source of information and guidance and will often provide demonstrations that highlight features and benefits to address specific needs. For example, if the maintenance/cleaning staff are primarily non-English speaking, a key control system that offers an access keypad designed with multiple languages and illuminated key slots for easy identification and return of keys would be ideal. Or, if the operational needs review indicates a requirement for storing more valuable objects such as laptop computers or weapons, it would be good to know if such a feature was available and by which vendor.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What hardware and software components are involved in key management?

Nick Loake: The hardware involved in key management ranges from different:

* Access methods (biometrics, magnetic strip/barcode swipe, RFID proximity).

* Door options (clear polycarbonate door, steel door).

* Key capacity (keys are attached using secur­ity seals to Traka iFobs (intelligent fobs) that lock into designated iFob positions on each receptor strip.

* Colours (black MNA03 or cream RAL1013, powder coated.)

* Receptor strips.

As to the software involved in key management, at a basic level, Traka software can grant you the ability to add and delete users, set access permissions for each user and view reports on which keys are out of the system and who has them. However, there is a matrix of additional functionality and options to provide a bespoke management tool suitable for an organisation. Information is stored in the Traka32 system database where it can be accessed by authorised administrators.

With Traka’s software you are able to compile a comprehensive range of management information, enabling you to:

* Check when a key is taken and returned, and by whom.

* Identify keys that have not been returned once an allocated period of time has elapsed,

* Determine how often particular keys are used, and for exactly how long.

* Notify a line manager or supervisor by email or SMS text of an alert situation.

Johan van Zyl: An electronic key management system consists of a secure cabinet, available in various sizes, to meet the client’s specific needs. Access to the cabinet is gained through a card, fingerprint or any other biometric identification reader.

PC-based software linked to a local server is gradually being phased out to make way for the more popular Web-based software that seamlessly connects to cloud storage. The cloud offers exponential access to the system via a secure and dedicated Android application. With a smartphone or tablet, tapping in is child’s play and up-to-date system reports and audit trails are always at your fingertips.

Venetia King: At a higher level, the hardware involved in key management includes a key box that can be opened via biometric access or PIN access or a combination of both. The key box would be controlled via software installed in a nearby laptop, desktop or network server.

Fernando Pires: A basic system would begin with a key cabinet into which keys can be locked. From there, additional capacity and sophistication can be added – cabinets can be networked, advanced software can provide audits and tracking, etc. A smart key management program allows for a wide range of options including the flexibility to have different levels of security in different areas of the building.

Securing personal computers, cash trays, weapons, cell phones, handheld radios and other larger objects is also easy and conveni­ent when locker-style modules are built into the system. Advanced application software enables key management systems to be virtually hardware agnostic for ease of integration with access control and other physical security systems.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What products/services does your company offer?

Nick Loake: Traka encompasses the following electronic key management products:

* Electronic key cabinets.

* Electronic lockers (iPad, laptop, weapon lockers).

* Loading bay management.

* Data logging and fleet management.

* Access control.

Traka21’s plug-and-play system provides small to medium businesses with the very latest in intelligent key management. Simple, efficient and cost-effective, Traka21 helps trace and account for every key or keyset, which are individually locked in place, ensuring that critical business operations are never jeopardised.

When you purchase a Traka system, we pride ourselves on the fact that you are buying more than just a physical box. The service you can expect from Traka will include:

* An experienced engineer to install the system at your site.

* A project manager to help you plan your system configuration – your keys, users, their permissions and reports you want to prepare.

* Training for your users and administrators.

* Aftercare from our account management team.

* Telephone assistance using our dedicated help line direct to our UK support centre.

* Extended warranty options over 3 and 5 years to help protect your investment.

Johan van Zyl: Amaya Industries offers one of the most advanced products currently available. The German engineered and designed ecos-systems electronic key management is exclusively brought to the African continent by Amaya Industries. Boasting highly sophisticated features, our electronic key management systems, electronic locker systems and electronic safe systems kick the proverbial dust in competitors’ eyes.

The most recent addition to our range, the ecosKey, is powered by currently unsurpassed technology. A built-in tablet performs all processing functions within the cabinet handling all hardware and software requests. Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity allow for easy installation and linking to the client’s local network. Alternatively, hosting the software service in the cloud allows access to the system from anywhere in the world via a Web-enabled device.

Preserving the integrity of ecos-systems products, Amaya Industries installs each unit to strict German specifications. Through extensive training we strive to optimise customer satisfaction and build confidence with indefinite after-sales service.

Venetia King: Zonke Monitoring Systems (ZMS) in collaboration with Key Systems Inc., provides exciting products of network ready, Web-enabled, asset control and monitoring devices. From keys to cards, firearms and medical supplies, to facility-wide access and exit monitoring, ZMS provides a solution in both form and function.

ZMS also provides electronically controlled lockers which may be modified in any number of ways to accommodate the customer’s needs. Firearms, medical equipment, shop tools and expensive electronics can be secured in electronic access controlled lockers that come in all shapes and sizes.

ZMS also offers the asset vault for electronic tracking. This is done by transforming existing storage areas into an electronic vault with asset tracking and monitoring options. The GFMS (Global Facilities Management System) software restricts and monitors user access, while tracking usage for detailed reporting.

Other products on offer include the following:

* The OC Spray Station.

* The SWAT Box.

* Tamperproof key rings.

* The Chit-Key Vault.

* The Vel-Key.

ZMS also offers the following services over and above the products that are on offer:

* Operational survey.

* Feasibility study.

* Pre-sales solutions engineering.

* Manufacture and solution assembling.

* Site survey.

* Hardware and software installations.

* Systems integration.

* Product training.

* After sales support.

Fernando Pires: Morse Watchmans is the industry’s leading provider of key control, key security and key and asset management solutions. The product portfolio offers both a standalone system, the KeyWatcher Illuminated with optional KeyPro III accompanying software and an enterprise system, the KeyWatcher Touch with optional KeyWatcher TrueTouch accompanying software.

The new SmartKey reader is designed for use with the KeyWatcher Touch system and accompanying TrueTouch software for total convenience when adding new keys to the system, deleting keys or identifying existing keys. A mobile app enables authorised users to review a wide range of live information and to interact remotely with the KeyWatcher Touch key control and asset management system.

Also included in the product portfolio is the KeyBank key management system to enable total accountability for large quantities of keys, KeyPro Software, KeyRings, PowerCheck Guard Tour System and TourPro data sorting software.


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