Verification is Key

Verification is Key

Access control is more than the first line of defense

With the continually expanding integration between video surveillance, access control and other business systems of all types, security now plays an important role in nearly every aspect of business and operations.

Among the technologies that serve the need for security, organizations are increasingly relying on access control as more than just a first line of defense. Thanks to advancements in software, access control is now capable of serving as the core technology for a growing variety of systems. While this is a positive development, the truth is that some traditional access control solutions can be vulnerable to misuse and fraud. As a result, these systems may actually be providing end users with a false sense of security.

Consider that the purpose of access control is to ensure that only authorized individuals are allowed to enter buildings, certain areas within those buildings and even networks. The strength of security relies on the ability to connect credentials, which incorporate authorities, permissions, privileges, etc., to particular individuals and ensure that only the individual connected to a particular identity is able to use them. Therefore, to maintain a high level of security, organizations must be able to correctly identify individuals and connect them with the proper credentials. To do this effectively requires verifying the identity of individuals using the credentials, but unfortunately, this is not part of the technology embedded in conventional access control systems.

Many, if not most, systems rely on card readers or other physical credentials to control access. These systems either grant or deny access based on nothing more than an individual’s possession of a physical access card or entry of a valid PIN or password. In other words, identity confirmation or verification is left out of the equation. Without physical identity verification, conventional access readers just don’t have the ability to confirm that the user is in fact the individual assigned to that card or other physical device.

Identification cards can be stolen, loaned, lost or duplicated. Even twostep verification that requires a card and a PIN or password can be defeated with skimmers and other readily available tools. Determined hackers, thieves, criminals and others who may have malicious intent constantly seek out the path of least resistance and/or potential loopholes in security to gain access to buildings, secure areas, networks and other sensitive assets.

For this reason, organizations looking beyond today’s access control functionality for solutions that offer new, more intelligent security and operational capabilities need not look farther than biometric technology, which provide the strongest link between individual identities and access.

BIOMETRIC VERIFICATION

For many years now, the affordability, ease-of-use and overall effectiveness of traditional card readers, keypads and other solutions has made these technologies more or less the standard choice for access control. Despite the fact that biometric readers are able to deliver higher levels of security, their expense and complexity made them better-suited for high-security facilities and little else.

Now, biometric technologies are available at price points much lower than in the past. We see this reality every day in smartphones, tablets and other devices that incorporate fingerprint, facial recognition and other biometric authentication methods for restricting access. These same cost-efficient biometric readers are now being deployed in a growing number and wider variety of security applications, often in lieu of card readers and keypads, to increase security levels significantly.

Biometrics offers the unparalleled advantage of authenticated physical identity verification as opposed to typical card or prox devices. Among the most common biometric characteristics used for identity verification are finger-prints, facial features, voice and iris. Each has its pros and cons, but the fastest- growing among these is iris recognition. New biometric iris recognition technology is dissipating preconceived notions about the price, performance, and business potential for iris readers.

Thanks to technological advancements, iris recognition has become fast, simple and safe, and doesn’t require physical contact with a sensor or reader. This method also delivers the highest effectiveness of all biometrics.

Iris recognition access control systems are able to accurately verify an individual’s identity before allowing access. Unlike access cards, PINs or passwords, irises can’t be lost, left at home, forgotten, shared or stolen – and it’s virtually impossible for someone to circumvent iris verification using makeup, wigs or other methods. Iris biometric- embedded tablets designed for mainstream applications combine the accuracy and convenience of iris recognition with the functionality and customization of a mobile computing platform for increased security levels.

ADVANCED IRIS RECOGNITION

With respect to iris recognition solutions, many people may still think of the “old days” when systems required individuals to come to a full stop, look directly into a camera from a short distance and wait a couple seconds or more for the system to authenticate their identity. This couldn’t be farther from the truth today’s solutions, which are miles ahead of their predecessors.

Enrolling users in the system is fast and easy. Users sit for a quick photo that allows a camera to capture a detailed image of their iris, which is stored in the system for later comparison. Verifying identities is even easier. All a user has to do is look into the iris reader from a comfortable distance— often without even stopping—and the system compares the patterns in his or her iris against the image stored in the database. If there’s a match, identity is verified.

There are some iris recognition systems on the market that are capable of scanning as many as 30 people per minute from a distance of several feet. This is two to three times faster than the expected throughput of high-end hand or fingerprint scanners, which is 10 to 15 people per minute. This increased efficiency can eliminate long lines and delays at peak times. And unlike these other biometrics, iris recognition requires no contact with a camera or other surface, which greatly reduces wear and tear and concerns about contamination from germs and other sources.

BEYOND SECURITY

The accuracy and identification authentication provided by iris recognition systems also delivers benefits and value to businesses beyond conventional security purposes. Time and attendance, inventory control and other customizable applications are all possible.

Incorporating iris verification with time and attendance applications can result in potentially significant gains in both employee productivity and overall efficiency. In the case of hourly or shiftbased employees in retail, food service and other industries, iris recognition also improves the accuracy of time and attendance by eliminating the possibility of “buddy punching.” Convenience is another benefit, as iris recognition eliminates the extra steps between employees punching in, recording hours, processing payroll and performing analytics, which are necessary with cardbased systems.

Advances in software solutions now allow access control to be increasingly used as the hub of security and other systems to collect, sort and share data between multiple sources. For companies and organizations in healthcare and other industries that are governed by certain regulations, integrating iris recognition with these solutions ensures precise audit trails and can considerably streamline the process of demonstrating compliance. As iris recognition continues to evolve, we will see new form factors, technological advances and even greater accuracy, all of which will combine to increase the number and range of potential applications.

Identity authentication and management is a foundational concept for the professional security industry, and new devices incorporating cost-effective, high-performance biometric iris recognition help to achieve this goal. By deploying these devices, organizations can address the vulnerabilities associated with traditional access control systems to make a meaningful difference in mitigating their risk exposure. The ability to use iris recognition for business applications in addition to security makes readers even more costeffective. The ROI of these solutions is further increased because there are no physical cards that must be distributed and replaced when lost; RFID blocking sleeves to prevent hacking are unnecessary; and the potential is there to streamline operations by reducing time and labor.

Increasing security may seem like a daunting task for many end users, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Upgrading identity and access control devices with more accurate and effective iris recognition devices has the power to deliver real—and significant— increases in security. With all the capabilities and benefits of today’s iris recognition readers, these solutions are creating a new benchmark for overall improved security in our workplaces, communities and our nation.

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Security Today.

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