Key
For many companies, the current state of their access control infrastructure is best described as being fractured

For many companies, the current state of their access control infrastructure is best described as being fractured. Multiple disparate physical and logical access control systems and cumbersome manual processes are all too common. Standardizing one system throughout a company might address part of the problem, but replacing multiple systems may require large amounts of capital. 

A long-term access control issue for any company how to manage its identities. It is important to ensure that individuals only have permission to enter authorized areas, both for the sake of security and compliance. With large numbers of employees, geographically distributed campuses and ever-changing authority levels, keeping permissions current is an important issue to address. Sophisticated identity management software can enable a single identity to be created for each individual across any organization. Integrating physical security systems with logical security systems creates software which can ensure synchronized and policy-based on-/off-boarding of identities. 

Identity management challenges and opportunities


Although effectively managing identity can be a challenge, it also provides many opportunities for any organization. These include enabling human resource and LDAP-format databases to connect instantly with physical access control systems and to receive real-time reports across any number of physical access control systems. It is also possible to manage badge/credentialing systems more efficiently and to track visitors and third-party contractors and link them to an internal identity. Other new opportunities include the ability to correlate identities with alarms and events and to grant access based on a risk profile of an identity or location. Access can also be granted based on training or other special requirements.


...effectively managing identity can be a challenge, but it also provides many opportunities for any organization

All types of identities can be managed with advanced software, including permanent and temporary employees, contractors, service providers and vendors. Users can manage details of a physical identity, such as biographic and biometric information, the results of security checks and historical usage. Software also enables various access levels to be assigned to an identity across multiple physical access control systems and can specify details such as time of scheduled access.

An urgent termination feature can allow authorized personnel to immediately deny physical access. In addition to aggregating access level information from various systems, the administrator can manage details such as risk level, area owner, multiple approvers and prerequisites for access, such as training. The system can also provide audit trails of all transactions.

From a risk perspective, automated identity management systems enable organizations to lower liability and maximize protection of assets. Furthermore, systems promote standardization within a security organization and implementation of best practices.

Cost is another important benefit. A unified, software-based approach to identity management reduces the need for labor-intensive and repetitive processes.

Regulatory compliance needs incentivize effective identity management

People walking in an office space
Keeping permissions current is an important issue to address

A proliferation of regulatory requirements provides an additional incentive to manage identities more effectively. End-user companies are subject to a growing number of regulations that require verification of identities and access to facilities and information. For example, all corporate entities are subject to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, which requires management of user identities and access to information while ensuring its integrity. Vertical markets have their own specific regulations, such as the CFATS, anti-terrorism requirements of the petrochemical industry, Gramm-Leach-Bliley which protects information in the finance arena, HIPAA privacy rules for healthcare and NERC/FERC security regulations in the energy sector. Governments face compliance with FIPS 201/HSPD-12 credentialing requirements and airports are regulated by TSA. Banking companies seek to comply with Basel II requirements that include risk management and pharmaceutical companies are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Centralized identity management systems allow managers to easily monitor regulatory infractions and proactively enforce security policies and rules.

Software systems enable compliance initiatives to be automated in real time to create a transparent, traceable and repeatable global process to manage governance and compliance. To comply with regulations takes strict governance of security controls across both physical and IT infrastructures and management of risk on a holistic level.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

In case you missed it

Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security
Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security

At an Oldsmar, Fla., water treatment facility on Feb. 5, an operator watched a computer screen as someone remotely accessed the system monitoring the water supply and increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million. The chemical, also known as lye, is used in small concentrations to control acidity in the water. In larger concentrations, the compound is poisonous – the same corrosive chemical used to eat away at clogged drains. The impact of cybersecurity attacks The incident is the latest example of how cybersecurity attacks can translate into real-world, physical security consequences – even deadly ones.Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. The computer system was set up to allow remote access only to authorized users. The source of the unauthorized access is unknown. However, the attacker was only in the system for 3 to 5 minutes, and an operator corrected the concentration back to 100 parts per million soon after. It would have taken a day or more for contaminated water to enter the system. In the end, the city’s water supply was not affected. There were other safeguards in place that would have prevented contaminated water from entering the city’s water supply, which serves around 15,000 residents. The remote access used for the attack was disabled pending an investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. On Feb. 2, a compilation of breached usernames and passwords, known as COMB for “Compilation of Many Breaches,” was leaked online. COMB contains 3.2 billion unique email/password pairs. It was later discovered that the breach included the credentials for the Oldsmar water plant. Water plant attacks feared for years Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.” “The incident at the Oldsmar water treatment plant is a reminder that our nation’s critical infrastructure is continually at risk; not only from nation-state attackers, but also from malicious actors with unknown motives and goals,” comments Mieng Lim, VP of Product Management at Digital Defense Inc., a provider of vulnerability management and threat assessment solutions.The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online “Our dependency on critical infrastructure – power grids, utilities, water supplies, communications, financial services, emergency services, etc. – on a daily basis emphasizes the need to ensure the systems are defended against any adversary,” Mieng Lim adds. “Proactive security measures are crucial to safeguard critical infrastructure systems when perimeter defenses have been compromised or circumvented. We have to get back to the basics – re-evaluate and rebuild security protections from the ground up.” "This event reinforces the increasing need to authenticate not only users, but the devices and machine identities that are authorized to connect to an organization's network,” adds Chris Hickman, Chief Security Officer at digital identity security vendor Keyfactor. “If your only line of protection is user authentication, it will be compromised. It's not necessarily about who connects to the system, but what that user can access once they're inside. "If the network could have authenticated the validity of the device connecting to the network, the connection would have failed because hackers rarely have possession of authorized devices. This and other cases of hijacked user credentials can be limited or mitigated if devices are issued strong, crypto-derived, unique credentials like a digital certificate. In this case, it looks like the network had trust in the user credential but not in the validity of the device itself. Unfortunately, this kind of scenario is what can happen when zero trust is your end state, not your beginning point." “The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online for the first time as part of digital transformation projects,” says Gareth Williams, Vice President - Secure Communications & Information Systems, Thales UK. “While the move towards greater automation and connected switches and control systems brings unprecedented opportunities, it is not without risk, as anything that is brought online immediately becomes a target to be hacked.” Operational technology to mitigate attacks Williams advises organizations to approach Operational Technology as its own entity and put in place procedures that mitigate against the impact of an attack that could ultimately cost lives. This means understanding what is connected, who has access to it and what else might be at risk should that system be compromised, he says. “Once that is established, they can secure access through protocols like access management and fail-safe systems.”  “The cyberattack against the water supply in Oldsmar should come as a wakeup call,” says Saryu Nayyar, CEO, Gurucul.  “Cybersecurity professionals have been talking about infrastructure vulnerabilities for years, detailing the potential for attacks like this, and this is a near perfect example of what we have been warning about,” she says.  Although this attack was not successful, there is little doubt a skilled attacker could execute a similar infrastructure attack with more destructive results, says Nayyar. Organizations tasked with operating and protecting critical public infrastructure must assume the worst and take more serious measures to protect their environments, she advises. Fortunately, there were backup systems in place in Oldsmar. What could have been a tragedy instead became a cautionary tale. Both physical security and cybersecurity professionals should pay attention.

What Are The Positive And Negative Effects Of COVID-19 To Security?
What Are The Positive And Negative Effects Of COVID-19 To Security?

The COVID-19 global pandemic had a life-changing impact on all of us in 2020, including a multi-faceted jolt on the physical security industry. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see more clearly the exact nature and extent of that impact. And it’s not over yet: The pandemic will continue to be top-of-mind in 2021. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What have been the positive and negative effects of Covid-19 on the physical security industry in 2020? What impact will it have on 2021?

Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More
Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More

Our Expert Panel Roundtable is an opinionated group. However, for a variety of reasons, we are sometimes guilty of not publishing their musings in a timely manner. At the end of 2020, we came across several interesting comments among those that were previously unpublished. Following is a catch-all collection of those responses, addressing some of the most current and important issues in the security marketplace in 2021.