Dissecting the Advantages
Realizing the cost benefits for small- and medium-size businesses
- By Don Campbell
- Feb 01, 2017
Physical identity access management (PIAM)
solutions have changed the way leading
organizations approach security. In recent
years, advances in PIAM software and related
technologies have not only improved the
accuracy and capabilities of these powerful
systems, but they have also brought the cost within reach of
small- and medium-sized businesses. Now, mobile access
and management of PIAM systems capabilities are opening
up a new way for organizations to further increase their productivity
and speed up responses to system alerts.
Here are four advantages of mobile PIAM that offer organizations
new capabilities for improving their security posture.
Security staff has a wide variety of important tasks to accomplish,
and that not all of these activities take place at their desks.
Instead, staff can be on the move throughout the day, involved
with supervision, training, inspections, and many other tasks in
the course of their work. If access to the PIAM system was only
available at the security office, then it would only be possible to
update the system with new information, or take action on approval
requests, from that location. This limitation could mean
that important updates would be delayed until an officer with the
information returns at end-of-shift, or until they could be relayed
to a staff member who is actually in the office.
Providing access to the PIAM system through a mobile device
provides a much higher level of convenience. Mobile access lets
them accomplish relevant system tasks from any location at the
time they find the need. For example, reporting lost badges or lost
and found items. Mobile access also lets them respond immediately
to time-sensitive system tasks, such as responding to system
alerts or approving or denying access requests.
Thus, the convenience of mobile access is not just a ‘feelgood’
benefit—there is a real positive impact on productivity
In the past, security forces shared information at daily briefings,
through reports, and other traditional methods. Today, a mobile
security force may still start their shift with a daily briefing, but
that force relies upon many more information updates during the
day to understand the ever-changing current situation and shifting
priorities, and to manage developing needs and incidents.
If such security officers have real-time access to the PIAM system,
then they will have access to the most up-to-date status and
relevant information, leading to an improved level of security.
And, officers that are so equipped can make decisions and take
actions with confidence, thereby improving their effectiveness.
As an example, it is still relatively common for security guards
at entrances to sports facilities, outdoor festivals, construction
sites, and similar situations to rely on physical lists of authorized
visitors that are used to control entry and access to these sites. This
low-tech approach appears to save money but exposes the organization
to glaring security gaps. And, because the lists are prepared
in advance, it is difficult to update them, categorize visitors with
different access levels, correct errors, and so on. These time lags
are not just inconvenient—they actually create security risks and
interfere with the ability of the security guards to do their jobs.
With mobile PIAM, these security risk loopholes are closed.
PIAM solutions ensure identities are properly vetted and authenticated
before issuing a credential or allowing access. The same
policies and procedures of authentication and verifying are extended
into the mobile environment. For example, as part of an
event registration process, attendees might be required to upload
a photo ID. When their temporary event credential is issued, it
would include a barcode and when scanned, the profile of the
person quickly appears on the mobile device of security staff. In
this way, security staff can quickly confirm that the person presenting
the credential is the authorized person. Color coding on
the mobile device can also help with rapid vetting. For example—
by providing a green for approved—security simply verifies the
photo matches the person and allows entry. If orange or red appear
on their device upon scanning, they can take the necessary
precautions and deny entry.
Even with improved security, many organizations will not be satisfied
with a solution that slows down established processes or
extends wait times. Mobile PIAM is one of those rare solutions
that delivers on both counts, providing improved speed and ease
of access while also delivering stronger security. The flexibility offered
by mobile PIAM also delivers efficiencies and convenience
for updating identities and access privileges. Rather than having to
go to a desk to add or remove an identity from a PC, authorized employees can make changes directly from their phone or tablet.
As an example, at the 2016 Summer Games held in Rio, Brazil,
mobile PIAM was deployed to manage the identities and
track the movements of approximately 500,000 credentialed individuals,
allowing them to come and go from the various venues.
During the events, security and event staff used handheld devices
to verify identities nearly 3 million times, ensuring that every
badge was authentic. By connecting to the PIAM system, all of
these mobile devices were assured of having the latest, up-to-theminute
information, and discrepancies could be investigated and
In all, the solution deployed at the Games flagged about a
dozen problems with badges, most of which were minor, as well
as one more serious incident in which a number of people attempted
to falsify others’ credentials to enter a basketball game.
Thanks to the software and mobile capabilities, these anomalies
were caught instantly.
As mentioned earlier, PIAM software uses risk profiles to analyze
data from physical security and logical/IT systems across an
organization. Using this analysis, PIAM systems can detect and
identify irregular behaviors based on set policies and parameters
that have been predetermined by management. If a behavior
anomaly is identified, the PIAM software provides an alert to
security management with the information they need to investigate
and if appropriate, take action. Mobile PIAM takes this one
step further to deliver alerts in real time to the designated security
staff, including not only management, but also to security officers
in the field and on site.
As an example, consider what might happen if an individual is
using credentials to enter restricted areas they are not authorized
to access. A PIAM software system could correlate these events
and alert security to look for abnormal network activity. If the
flagged physical and IT access activities are connected, security
can immediately and automatically respond by deactivating the
individual’s ID badge and access privileges to company digital information.
A mobile alert can also be sent to the security officers
on duty to investigate and take appropriate action, such as removing
the person from the premises, or detaining the individual
until police arrive. In either case, providing the officers on scene
with access to the PIAM system information equips them to better
evaluate the situation and take appropriate actions.
As advanced PIAM solutions continue to improve their ability
to detect anomalies and provide actionable intelligence, it
becomes ever more important to get that intelligence quickly
into the hands of the security staff that will put it to use. Mobile
PIAM offers a powerful, efficient and cost-effective way for organizations
to capitalize on the strengths of PIAM from anywhere,
at any time.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Security Today.