hand being scanned
Many forward-thinking organisations are rightly reassessing their security options
In many industries, security and dependability are at the forefront of customers’ minds. But the fact is that firewalls and encryptions will only ever form part of the solution. Jon Mooney and Dave Bulless, security experts at Ingersoll Rand in the US and UK respectively, discuss the benefits of biometric technology in the protection of people, businesses and assets. Highlighting the many advantages of hand readers and fingerprint recognition scanners used in conjunction with access control / identity management software, the writers state that biometric access control is one of the most secure options available.

The key challenge for offsite storage and information handling facilities has always been to provide employees and customers with immediate access, while maintaining a high level of security. However, a simple access card-based system, where cards can be lost or stolen, is not the answer. You can’t rely on your customers to remember their card each time they visit your facility.

Using biometrics for reliable access control

The reality is that although biometrics
is arguably the most secure option in terms of people and assets, many still don’t understand the mechanics behind it and often perceive
it as a threat...

Many forward-thinking organisations are rightly reassessing their security options after realising that card-based systems no longer provide the required protection or the level of convenience to meet their needs. For data industry leaders, when assessing the questions of physical access control, the overwhelming answer is biometric technology.

Hand recognition readers and fingerprint recognition scanners, in particular, provide a level of security beyond that of a conventional card system by verifying the identity of the person. At the same time they eliminate the burden and expense of a card-based system.

For some, hand readers and finger scanners sound like the stuff of Bond movies but the reality is, this is where security teams arguably need to be focusing their efforts. Hand readers and finger scanners make up 80 per cent of biometric access control applications. They are complementary, as each meets specific needs of the market.

Biometric fingerprint readers - advantages

Fingerprint recognition scanners are currently being used most successfully in smaller organisations. Best suited to low volume openings, for instance where doors are accessed by less than 100 people or at a slower rate, finger recognition technology offers a secure option where cost is a key consideration. It is often employed for the protection of sensitive documents and for high-value storage.

A biometric hand scanner
Larger installations use biometric hand readers at the entrance

Biometric hand readers – advantages in identity management

Hand reader technology, by contrast, presents an ideal solution for many larger organisations. Due to its accuracy and speed with which user identification can be assessed, it provides essential control without slowing the flow of a large group of people. Typically, larger installations use biometric hand readers at the entrance, on the security corridor and at individual customer areas. Administration of the system is handled by access control/ identity management software, which can be tailored to the client’s specific requirements including remote enrolment for multi-facility management and expiring privileges for temporary access. The hand readers interface directly with their access control panels and can be configured to control a lock independent of a panel.

The set-up process for adding someone to a hand reader system is simple. Once a person has enrolled in the hand reader software, the system creates a similar account in the primary access control system and the user’s hand effectively acts as a badge. The hand reader then compares the hand template with the stored biometric template triggered by a card or pin and, if it matches, sends an output representing the badge or pin number to the primary system. The primary system then decides whether the person is allowed entry.

Dispelling the myths surrounding biometric solutions

The reality is that although biometrics is arguably the most secure option in terms of people and assets, many still don’t understand the mechanics behind it and often perceive it as a threat...

The fundamental point about hand recognition readers and finger recognition scanners is that they recognise people, not plastic cards. This is paramount for organisations that require high security, and absolutely critical to the prevention of unauthorised access to hardware and sensitive information. They provide an additional layer of security, ensuring that lost or stolen cards are not later used to access facilities. Crucially, they ensure that ‘you are you.’

For some, hand readers and finger scanners sounds like the stuff of Bond movies but the reality is, this is where security teams arguably need to be focusing their efforts

Biometrics, such as hand readers do not require any details about an individual other than their name. Details of home addresses, bank account numbers or other personal information are not stored in any file or database. The measurements taken of an individual’s hand are simply converted through a unique algorithm into a number, which is stored in the database. In fact, even if someone gained entry to thePC that the software is stored on, they would not find any personal information. It must also be remembered that the main organisations will be using biometrics once individuals have pre-registered within their facilities either as employees or contractors. The finger, palm, iris or face is then used merely to confirm the individual is who they say they are and genuinely does require access.

There’s no doubt that there are data protection issues in many schools and other organisations, particularly in relation to personal information, addresses and other confidential information from social services for example. But, biometrics is not part of this problem and should not be lumped together with wider computer security issues.

The reality is that biometrics is safe, cost effective and it does what alternatives, such as card-based access systems can’t do, and that’s keep people and assets fully secure. The fact is, whether you’re an educational institute or a data organisation, investment in the right security technology is vital. Biometrics is not the problem. In fact, in security terms, it is the answer.
Nurses rushing through hospital doors
The fundamental point about biometric hand readers and finger scanners is that they recognise people, not plastic cards

Biometric systems checklist:

Investigation – Where are you now? Has your organisation recently grown or accumulated new assets and are you fully protected? Be honest, interrogate your levels of access and protection and ensure that your systems are fit for purpose.

Records – do you have a series of auditable checks and records in place? Make sure that your security systems offer you a complete view of access patterns and potential issues across all of your facilities.

Scalability – perhaps you require increased security but can’t afford a significant investment? If so, make sure that you start with a secure, scalable platform as a minimum which can be built upon over time, as funds allow.

Technology – is there a better biometric system out there for your needs? Keep on top of the latest technology news and be open about the needs of your organisation. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

 

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