The Evolution of Risk

How security entrances address vulnerabilities today

Risk prevention has always been a fundamental part of business planning and operations. And while the various forms of protection available have evolved over the years, so also has risk. About 20 years ago, professional security was mostly limited to night watchmen, armored trucks and closed circuit video cameras wired to VCRs. The main entrance to all but the most secure government or sensitive facilities would encompass nothing more than a set of glass doors and perhaps a receptionist visually checking ID cards from behind a desk.

Events between 1990 and 2001 changed those ideas forever. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the Enron scandal leading to a multitude of compliance laws, the shootings at Columbine High School and ultimately the events on 9/11 ushered in a new age of security that now encompasses cybersecurity as well.

Security and life safety have always been in lockstep, as they are both fundamental needs of organizations to shield people and property from harm. Today, these two concerns are merging in an unprecedented way as the global COVID-19 pandemic is causing a paradigm shift in operations. Now it is also necessary to protect ourselves from the handles, buttons and other structural components of buildings we regularly need to touch for entry and exit.


The entry has always been one of the most vulnerable and critical points in a facility. Whether the concern is compliance, cybersecurity, terrorism, violence, theft or any of the hundreds of other risks facing businesses, it is of fundamental importance to secure any location where people can enter a facility.

From a security perspective, the objective is to keep any unauthorized individuals out of the building or off the campus. Further, within each building, the objective is to ensure that any individual division, area, wing or room can only be entered by those who are authorized to be in that place at that time.

From a life safety perspective, since the entry is also the exit, it needs to provide the means for rapid and safe egress in case of an emergency. From a health perspective, many organizations are now adding the requirement that entry and exit be “touchless” as well.

Over the years, as risk evolved, the security industry’s approach to entry began to change along with it. Better locks were developed, and access control readers were placed at doors both outside and inside facilities, requiring a card swipe or tap to unlock the door. As the technology matured, the products became more sophisticated, with Wi-Fi locks, mobile credentials and biometrics among the developments.


While these advancements were significant, they did not address an important security shortfall. The majority of facility doors, both exterior and interior, are still standard swinging doors. There are many different form factors and types of locks for these doors, and the software that manages their locking and unlocking has become more advanced.

However, the doors themselves still work in the same way as they always have; when unlocked, they swing open and then close again. They may close, and/or re-lock, automatically – but once they are open, there is no barrier to entry for one or more people.

Even if a door is held open for only a few seconds, it fully negates the security function of the doors, since multiple unauthorized individuals can enter this way. There are many ways this can happen. A person may slip quickly through behind another, while “pretending” to search for their ID card. One authorized person can enter and pass their credentials back through the door for a second person to use. Or the door may simply be held politely for the next person to pass through.

Placing security officers or installing tailgating analytics technology at each entrance can help to mitigate these risks. However, guards can be misled by a false ID or a good story. For example, “white-hat” penetration testers have proven that a clean-cut man wearing khaki slacks and a polo shirt, carrying a ladder and a clipboard, and claiming to be there to provide some kind of maintenance, will almost always be allowed to enter without credentials. Most tailgating detection technology such as sensors with alarms, is reactive, alerting management only after the unauthorized person has already breached the facility.

Also, of course, none of this addresses the issue of virus transmission from touching surfaces that others have touched.


Security entrances can solve many of the problems of entry while offering numerous additional benefits. Unlike standard swinging doors, a security entrance, such as a turnstile with barriers, a security revolving door or mantrap portal, is designed to allow entry for only one authorized user at a time.

Some types of security entrances require local supervision and operate as a deterrent, while others work in such a way to prevent any type of tailgating. Regardless of type, compared to a swinging door, they are definitely a physical security upgrade due to their ability to significantly reduce the risk of infiltration.

Most important at this moment in time, optical turnstiles with barriers, security revolving doors and mantrap portals are excellent candidates for touchless entry. New integrations with facial recognition technology, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), are enabling authorization and entry for individuals based on biometric credentials – without the need to touch a handle, button or access reader.

With this technology in place, a security entrance can authorize an approaching individual from a few steps away and automatically move the turnstile barriers or door wings to enable a safe and healthy entrance to the facility.


The meaning of the word “security” has irrevocably changed in the past two decades. Organizations, campuses and corporate stakeholders are now at risk in ways that would have been unimaginable even two years ago.

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Security Today.


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