Access Control Systems Provide a Variety of Security Breach Deterrents

How many times have you read lawn signs that tell passersby “No Trespassing” or “Keep Out”? It may be difficult to imagine, but even the most common and simplest warnings in a suburban yard hold something in common with sophisticated technologies such as fingerprint readers and retina scanners. Although one form of technology is primitive while the other is cutting edge, both share a classification in security terms as forms of access control. Understanding the relationship between the two shows the variety of forms this kind of security can take for homes, businesses and governments in the twenty-first century where WikiLeaks is only the beginning.

At its most basic, an access control system means literally just that, a way of determining who can enter or exit a location, where they are permitted to enter or exit, and when they are allowed to enter or exit. In this way, access control systems answer the most fundamental question about security services: How can residents and employees have the freedom they need to come and go without compromising the security of an area by making it vulnerable to people who would do harm? The importance of this question makes access control systems an integral part of any security plan that also may include elements like closed circuit television and security surveillance.

Like yard signs, simple forms of access control include locks, keys and turnstiles, the kind of everyday objects that prevent people from entering private and some public areas like subway stations. In more sophisticated forms, access control systems can involve keypad alarm systems and even biometric readers that rely on the unique features of individuals such as voice recognition to determine whether to grant them access. The advantage of more complex forms of access control is that homeowners and employees cannot lose the entry information as they might a regular key, and that managers can review the systems to track the history of comings and goings in the event of a security incident.

Due to their sophistication, biometric access control systems that utilize unique physical features are used most often in government installations and high-profile commercial targets such as banks, hotels and perhaps some apartment complexes. Common locations include laboratory and testing areas that safeguard sensitive items like radioactive materials or other top-secret devices. In addition, businesses that work with sensitive government contracts and corporate information often have sophisticated access control systems in place.

For everyday business use, many companies find satisfaction with access control through keycards. Keycards are normally flat and rectangular-shaped pieces of plastic that are presented to a card reader for entry. Types of keycards are classified according to the type of technology they use, such as magnetic stripe, bar code, smart card and proximity cards.

As a type of security, access control can take the form of a simple lock and key that protects a garage or a complex retina scanning system that safeguards top-secret government data. The type of system used varies widely and often depends on the environment, whether it be a home, corporation or government installation, and the kind of material to be protected. But whatever the location or purpose, the basic message of access control remains the same: “Keep Out.”
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