Seven disparate systems, tens of thousands of existing cards in circulation, new buildings requiring new systems, budget constraints - There are two approaches going forward: keep making it work, or work on a plan to centralize the system for some serious long-term efficiencies. University of East Anglia (UEA), located just outside Norwich city center, has more than 14,000 students studying on campus, and over 2,000 employees.

The city had donated what was the Earlham municipal golf course for the site of the campus, and traces of the fairways can still be seen around the grounds today. In 1962, Denys Lasdun was appointed as UEA’s founding architect. It was Lasdun who designed the University’s core buildings – the monumental Teaching Wall, the raised walkways, the central Square and the now famous ‘ziggurats’.

Installation of Gallagher security system

We needed a system that would give us the ability to keep using what we currently have"The striking ziggurats are like none other – the student accommodation, lining the embankment, are pyramidal in shape. While the historical buildings remain, new buildings and residences have also been developed. These developments and the increasing expectation of student accommodation acted as key drivers for a review of access on the campus.

Jonathan Richardson, Access Control Project Manager & Senior Systems Specialist for Corporate Information Systems has championed the roll out of a Gallagher security system for the University. From his previous position as an editor for an IT publication, he relished in critiquing a system to see if it was all it was supposed to be.

We needed a system that would give us the ability to keep using what we currently have, and create an infrastructure to be able to develop it over time to how we envisage the system one day operating,” he says.

Compatible with third party card formats

The import and export facilities have made the system ideal for combining data from a range of student, personnel and accommodation systems. “We already had 42,000 cards in circulation – there was no way we could replace them. Gallagher was chosen for its ability to work with third party card formats.

We rely totally on the automatic imports to add and remove access as required"

Card data is imported/updated using the import export service with data from the Envision card production system. We additionally use data from a student system, accommodation system and a couple of bespoke databases to automatically calculate access groups – changes to access groups are again handled via the import export service.

There is no way we could realistically manage the level of changes with a manual system – we rely totally on the automatic imports to add and remove access as required. The integration is massive, and the impact it is having in terms of pulling different information sources together is huge.

Four times more secure system

Jonathan describes the system as being a “catalyst for change on how security, data storage and management across a range of systems and databases are viewed. The implementation has been very transparent – people are unaware of the changeovers that have taken place. The dynamic updates are now happening, and the system is probably at least four times more secure now.

Jonathan mentions the difference is made by the level of technical support available from the manufacturer, from the UK and even head office (based in New Zealand) dialling in when required.

Gallagher controls a range of devices including doors, automatic swing and slide doors, car park barriers, turnstilesGallagher controls a full range of devices including doors, automatic swing and slide doors, car park barriers, turnstiles and elevators. The system also facilitates electronic access for disabled flats for residents in wheelchairs. System Division functionality is used to give building owners their own portion of the system for management purposes.

Checking tailgating and card enquiries

For car parking, times are recorded for charging parking fees. Louis Chisholm, Transport co-ordinator, uses the Gallagher security system on a daily basis. When asked how she finds the system, Louis replies, “I love it. I can check all the things I need to without asking anyone else.” She uses the reporting to check for people tailgating, and checking any enquiries for specific cards. From parking to the library: students enter the library through turnstiles.

Reports on usage patterns have been used to justify access funding to promote the resource. The audit trail has been called on for incidents occurring in the library that have put staff safety at risk, and even disputes on the return of books. Research laboratories and chemical stores rely on the system; previously dangerous chemicals have gone missing with no knowledge of who was there at the time.

Changing Prox readers to Mifare

We have plans to change the existing 125 Prox to Mifare and then roll out dual function cards to all cardholders"The University has around 150 doors (30 Gallagher Controllers) using third party magstripe readers. There are additionally around 20 Gallagher Prox readers (125 kHz) used in secure areas via a dual technology card. “We have plans to change the existing 125 Prox to Mifare and then roll out dual function cards to all cardholders – replacing magstripe readers with Gallagher Prox Mifare readers,” explains Jonathan.

Once converted, this would take into consideration different facets – from the cafeterias to involving the local bus companies – in the use of the smart card technology. The success of Gallagher security systems in centralizing access control and reporting has meant the system is being expanded rapidly, and introducing new functionality is ongoing.

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

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.