Logical access control

October 2006 Access Control & Identity Management

Big business lies beyond the boundaries of physical access control.

The rapidly growing world of logical access control is leveraging certain established access technologies in a surprising variety of ways.

United Press International reported on 30 August that dental patients at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada can let their orthodontists know they have arrived for their appointment by using fingerprint scanners at the front desk (http://www.upi.com/ConsumerHealthDaily/view.php?StoryID= 20060830-060539-2844r).

Using this technology, patients do not have to speak to a receptionist - they can simply touch a fingerprint keypad at the front desk. The keypad is connected through the computer network and sends a message directly to a computer at the orthodontic resident's work station, noting that the patient is waiting.

Recent upgrades to the clinic have equipped each orthodontists' dental station with a chair-side computer to receive the biometric data sent when patients arrive. If a patient waits for more than 15 minutes, the computer will flag that the patient has been waiting a long time.

In addition to the fingerprint sign-in, the orthodontists will be able to access dental records without having to refer to traditional paper charts and eventually access digital dental X-rays. The benefits this holds for both patients and practitioners alike is revolutionary. Practitioners are saving in terms of administrative and database management costs and patients are assured a more efficient service as waiting times for appointments are reduced and records are accessed timeously.

The applications of so-called 'logical' access control are rapidly increasing as the immediate benefits of the technology versus traditional forms of access control become more apparent. Closer to home, the Ideco Group has deployed Sagem-based fingerprint technology within South Africa's Department of Home Affairs and the National Traffic Information System. In these instances, the objectives have been in keeping with the traditional goals of access control and are concerned with the security and integrity of data within IT systems rather than as an aid to managing customer relationships.

For the Department of Home Affairs, an example of how biometrics is being used is the production of records relating to illegal visitors. Officials responsible for capturing this data at the National Repatriation are required to 'sign' with their fingerprint that the information captured for each detainee is legitimate. This 'signing' is done via Sagem fingerprint scanners which identify whether the person is authorised to capture the data. The use of a fingerprint signature means that an accurate link is created between the operator and the data that they have entered for each illegal visitor.

The cross-over of biometrics from government to private and commercial applications is further paving the growth of biometrics into every aspect of physical and logical security. Gary Jones, manager of Ideco Biometric Security Solutions notes: "The ability of commercial and private sectors to safeguard their intellectual property using fingerprint readers that plug into computers is becoming increasingly popular. Not only does an organisation save on the costs of administering password protections, but the integrity of the system is secured. No unauthorised access to an organisation's computer network is possible when access is secured with something as unique as one's fingerprint'.

Logical access control may just transform the very way in which personal possessions and investments are secured. Anything from banking transactions to vehicles are all viable applications for access control. Internet banking in the future may lend itself to more secure means of ensuring that the person conducting online transactions is authorised to do so. The application of biometrics-led technologies is lending itself to a more secure logical environment, where information technology fraud can be avoided through the use of fingerprint identification.

The fingerprint may just form the very basis of every secure future transaction ever made. Ideco's Sagem-based fingerprint identification solutions have already been adopted by the South African Police Services, the Department of Home Affairs for the back record conversion of over 38 million South African citizens, as well as the Department of Transport for the issuing of the national drivers' licences.

The next logical step it may seem is for the technology to take its rightful place in securing all data-sensitive information, whether it is a high security banking transaction or a dental record. The rapidly growing world of logical access control is certainly set to leverage access technologies in a surprising variety of ways.

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