Tight as a Drum - Imagine getting slapped with a $1 million fine for not adequately securing your facility. Think it can’t happen? Think again.

Tight as a Drum

Enhanced security, with a padlock?

Imagine getting slapped with a $1 million fine for not adequately securing your facility. Think it can’t happen? Think again. If you are ultimately responsible for creating and maintaining a safe facility environment—for students, employees or the public—and you have not appropriately addressed an identified security risk at your facility, you could be held accountable by the regulatory agencies. And, that could mean a heavy fine. As security administrator, you have got to conduct periodic security assessments and then make sure those risks are being managed.

Let’s Take a Walk around Your Facility

When it comes to physical security, the perimeter is probably your weakest link. Facility perimeters come in all shapes and sizes, from a small remote substation to a large centralized campus. They are all susceptible to breaches.

In fact, most perimeter breaches are not only difficult to detect, but they’re also difficult to prevent. That is why we build walls, install fencing and barbed wire, use cameras and motion detectors, and most importantly, lock all perimeter openings. Some facilities incorporate natural barriers into their perimeter using water, snow banks or rocks. All told, you can easily spend a small (or large) fortune on perimeter security.

If perimeter security is your weakest link, what is your best option? Surprisingly, you can make a significant impact in detecting and preventing breaches by simply enhancing your current program. One of the most cost-effective actions you can take is to upgrade all gate locks with new technology. Technology upgrades make it possible to drastically improve perimeter security without a large investment or by using outside resources.

Take a closer look at your facility’s perimeter. How secure is each locked opening and pedestrian gate? More than likely, your pedestrian gates are secured with padlocks. If you are using off-the-shelf padlocks, this is a good time to rethink your strategy. There is far too much vulnerability with a common mechanical padlock as. By upgrading to an electronic high-tech padlock—one that is part of an intelligent key system—you can overcome significant security issues without blowing your budget.

Old School Locks

First of all, mechanical padlocks are old school. Anyone with a key can gain access. Over time, the security protection erodes as keys get lost, stolen or misplaced. That makes it necessary to rekey or replace the cylinders and reissue new keys, and those expenses add up. Another shortcoming with mechanical padlocks is their susceptibility to unauthorized key duplication.

Key duplication is a big business and it’s difficult to prevent unauthorized work. You may have seen keys stamped with “Do Not Duplicate” on the key head. That’s a laughable warning to someone who is determined to get or make a copy. Today, there are phone apps that make key duplication as easy as taking a photo of the key and sending it to someone with a key machine and key blanks. There is also the ever-increasing threat posed by 3-D printers and DIY kiosks that make surreptitious duplication easier than ever.

What about the padlock itself—what is it made of and how easily will it open when limited force is applied? The most common padlocks are made of brass, zinc or steel, which will vary in grade and thickness. Off-the-shelf padlocks generally use thinner components and less dense metals to keep costs low, but that means they’re also less effective against physical attacks like cutting, sawing, prying, drilling or grinding. Take a look at some of the informative padlock attack videos on YouTube and you’ll get an idea of how easy—or how difficult—it can be to gain entry to a facility’s most sensitive areas when a padlock is used.

Getting Greater Flexibility

Of all the padlock types, the electronic padlock, which is often part of an intelligent key system, offers the greatest flexibility and range of benefits. The best of these high-end padlocks is made of durable, industrial-grade stainless steel and comes with a hardened boron alloy steel shackle. Pick one of these babies up and you’ll instantly feel the weight difference over a traditional padlock.

While the sheer heft and build quality will impress you, it’s the outstanding security features that will really get your attention. The electronic, intelligent key system padlock offers many of the same advantages of an electronic access control system, yet it installs at a fraction of the cost and without the usual hardwiring requirements. That is because all electrical power to the padlock is provided by the key’s rechargeable or replaceable battery, which eliminates challenges caused by remote battery replacement or environmental restrictions on batteries.

Intelligent keys are easily programmed with a separate device and will ensure that each key will only open a specific lock or locks during a designated schedule. That means you can give each employee an intelligent key of their own that is programmed to open only the locks that he or she will need to access during their shift.

Best of all, both the lock and key provide a time-and-date stamped record of every event, including authorized accesses and unauthorized attempts, and all activity is easily monitored via software. You can even disable a key should it get lost or stolen or when you have personnel changes. The key programming device is simple to use and will sit on desks, it can be wall-mounted, and it even communicates through a smart phone.

Key duplication is not an issue with an intelligent key system padlock. Every key has a unique ID and encryption technologies protect against key cloning or programming the key without the system administrator’s knowledge.

This high-tech padlock also offers excellent resistance to harsh weather and extreme conditions. Caps protect the electronic contact points and weather seals are used where the shackle enters the padlock body. Since extreme temperatures can affect battery life, designers have housed the battery in the key rather than inside the padlock body where it is more exposed to heat and cold. When all is said and done, the benefits and features of electronic padlocks are light-years ahead of their mechanical or combination lock counterparts.

As a security administrator, you know it’s impossible to detect or prevent all unauthorized accesses. However, you can significantly reduce the opportunity for perimeter breaches by having an effective key control policy in place and the right locks for the application. Take a good look at these new high-tech padlocks. They will provide a security solution that is far more appropriate for difficult-to-secure areas like perimeter gates and will make your job a whole lot easier.

So, what’s on your gates?

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

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