Connecting Disparate Systems

Multiple-vendor link access control systems across all geographic locations

NERC compliance requirements in the utilities industry have made it essential to monitor and report on physical access to various facilities, control rooms, substations and critical assets. A major utility company in the United States, whom we will call UTILCO, completed a large merger. As the operations were being combined, UTILCO wanted to have a system that allowed its corporate security managers to use job roles to decide who has access to specific facilities and how much area access they should have within those facilities.

Adding to the complexity, they were going through an end-of-life on their existing access control systems. They faced the challenge of needing to migrate to new access control systems from a different vendor, while unifying access management across two large employee populations that were being combined into one company. During this process, all badges must continue to function and their activity logged for compliance purposes.

The Enterprise Guardian solution from AlertEnterprise was selected for its ability to maintain enterprise roles for each and every employee, and make any changes to underlying badging systems totally transparent to the users.

Readily available connectors to existing badging systems allowed all information to be consolidated in the identity repository. Security managers could now enroll identities, create badges, assign area access and disable badges from one place to deliver a single comprehensive, unified badge access system for the requesting and granting of physical access across the entire enterprise.

UTILCO can now apply uniform policies across all its facilities with regards to NERC, NERC CIP, FERC and company rules. AlertEnterprise can serve as the system of record for access across the enterprise for large user base comprising of employees, contractors, visitors and contingent workers.

UTILCO could extend the useful life of its legacy systems, ease the process of migration to new systems for enterprise-wide access control, and meet compliance requirements. Eliminating the need to separately manage multiple systems reduces cost while reducing risk and enhancing security across the organization.

The utility company and the acquired company each had deployed the same legacy access control system. Their current system is at end-of-life and UTILCO has chosen a new product to be its replacement. The acquired company implemented a self-service interface that enables employees and contractors to request access to areas across the enterprise. It serves as the means for its staff to request NERC-CIP area access with manager and area owner approvals.

Separately, UTILCO developed a custom application to provide a sub-set of such capabilities for that enterprise.

AlertEnterprise was selected for the merged entity to migrate to a solution that could handle roles-based identities from both companies and scale to the larger staff population. AlertEnterprise unifies and manages provisioning, reporting and incident response across multi-vendor access control systems.

AlertEnterprise solves a critical problem many organizations are facing when attempting to unify provisioning and reporting across access systems that are already installed. With AlertEnterprise software, organizations can enhance their return on existing investments in current installations and yet derive added benefits of enhanced risk analysis, compliance automation and active policy enforcement. Reporting is a key security audit requirement. AlertEnterprise automates reporting and solves the problem of consolidating and delivering reports through a highly configurable interface.

The software helps stitch together multiple vendor badging systems into a centrally controlled enterprise-class access control system. It also integrates with HR Systems, active directory and enterprise applications. Now organizations can unify access control across the enterprise and if needed, make the migration for replacement access control systems seamless.

SOLUTION CAPABILITIES

  • Supports both self-service and on-behalf-of models for access requests.
  • Enables remote badge access activation.
  • Delivers recertification and site access reauthorization.
  • Encourages multi-vendor access control management.
  • Implements processes to handle stolen/lost/broken badges.
  • Incorporates NERC-CIP and FERC requirements in each of these processes.

BENEFITS

  • Offers a single, comprehensive, unified solution for the request and granting of physical access across the enterprise.
  • Shields business users from the details of the disparate, underlying PACS systems— Picture Perfect and AMAG- during the transformation process.
  • Provides for the integration of background verification and training/certification completion during the process of credentialing.
  • Serves as the system of record across a diverse, geographically dispersed user demographic comprising employees, contractors, and contingent workers.
  • Deploys a highly available, fault tolerant solution deployment to meet the Duke Energy SLA for a critical business function.

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Security Today.

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