Access Control Industry Best Practices

With a wide variety of reader technologies to choose from, it's important to ensure that the technology selected properly balances risk, cost, and convenience factors.

By Holly Sacks | Posted Jan 12, 2010
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Choosing the Right Reader

With a wide variety of reader technologies to choose from, it's important to ensure that the technology selected properly balances risk, cost, and convenience factors. Prox technology is a viable choice, especially for sites where there are existing Prox cards in use, but contactless smart cards represent the next generation Prox technology and offer all of the convenience of Prox along with increased security and additional benefits such as multiple applications, read/write and increased memory. However, when selecting a vendor's system, be aware that some manufacturers, in an attempt to sell "universal” readers capable of reading almost any contactless smart card, bypasses the security measures of contactless smart cards in order to achieve their goal. These readers, known as "CSN readers,” only read the card's serial number, which, as per ISO standards, are required to be able to be read by any reader for the express purposes of being able to read multiple cards presented to a reader at the same time. Furthermore, because the ISO specifications are publicly available, details of how this process works can be employed by unknown persons to gain unauthorized access.

Communications Protocol

Access control readers typically read a card and send the card data to another "upstream” device such as a panel, which decides whether to allow access. When this communication takes place using wires, the most popular method is the Wiegand Protocol because it's almost universally supported by all vendors. Although more modern protocols such as RS485 and TCP/IP offer more security, there is less interoperability between different manufacturers of readers and panels.

Protect the Wiring

Installing the security system's wiring in conduits makes it more difficult to compromise due to the difficulty of identifying the correct conduit. Additionally, bundling several wire runs together so that identifying the correct set of wires is more difficult is also desirable.  Avoid the use of readers with built-in connectors that are easy to swap out with an unauthorized reader and connect wires in a permanent fashion by soldering.

Use Security Screws

Utilize security screws that require special tools to remove a reader. This makes the removal process longer and more difficult and increases the possibility that a malicious attack will be noticed.

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