Visitor control - the flaw in most access control installations

October 2005 Access Control & Identity Management

How often have you been tempted to fill in the Visitors Book with something as equally foolish as the above? Certainly, in strategically important installations they have a security team and without at least showing your ID book, you will not gain access. In many places however, the visitor control system is the biggest flaw in the access control system.

A major development in SA is the effort being made at inner-city urban renewal. Besides the Government initiatives, private entrepreneurs are making a big impact. They buy derelict buildings, refurbish them and install a substantial security system including personnel and equipment. In this way they are able to provide a safe haven of accommodation for tenants. This gradually uplifts the whole area.

Critical to this process is the exclusion of non-tenants from these buildings and this can easily be achieved using state-of-the-art biometric access control systems. Here again however, the flaw in the system usually occurs when visitors are allowed into the building. Tenants try to exploit the situation by sub-letting their flats and providing accommodation to un-vetted persons, and strangers in the building are a threat to property and lives.

On the other end of the spectrum are the new security villages and golf estates. Here, upmarket tenants pay a big premium to have luxury accommodation in an enclosed area where security is not a worry. All registered families and their workers are on the security database, and by way of tokens (usually cards) or biometrics, they are granted admission through the secured entrances. When a visitor arrives, the security of the system often breaks down. Signing the 'Mickey Mouse' Register (as above) is a useless exercise in security control and issuing a badge or electronic token may at best ensure that the visitor eventually leaves.

The use of computerised parking systems for visitor control has become something of a joke (a sad one at that) where the exits are now usually manned by security guards. They are even seen at some sites working a manual boom behind the automatic one, to prevent thieves from speeding with a stolen car behind their own, once the boom lifts.

No one wants to make visitor security like a top secret military base with delays and interrogation, but without it, control mostly fails.

A solution implemented by some system suppliers is known as 'hosted access'. In this system each visitor is issued with a token, which only works if accompanied by a token of one of the tenants or employees. Although not proving the identity of the visitor, it transfers responsibility for that person to the tenant or employee. The down side is that the tenant or employee is inconvenienced by having to collect his visitor. In such a system, as in any visitor control, the access token expires after a pre-determined time.

In a biometric-based system a similar method can be implemented, only here the biometric template is captured and loaded for a predetermined period on the readers. An archive can be created in such a system where the template can be stored and reactivated on repeat visits. There is potential to store images of prints for security follow up, but there are privacy issues that each situation will have to address.

This approach can also be implemented without demanding that the host accompany the visitor, but instead will confirm by phone or intercom that he takes responsibility for the visitor. It is becoming more common that a video image is captured of each visitor and is stored against the data captured on his access. This is useful in following up on criminal events that occurred in the controlled area.

Technology for licence plate recognition has become affordable. In parking garages it can help to record time spent but is of minimal use to prevent theft of vehicles unless combined with identification of the driver.




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