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The Best Practices For Managing User Data On Access Control Systems

Access control systems are widely used to secure restricted areas of commercial and public sector premises. This fulfils several functions, such as protecting valuable items and sensitive data, and preventing untrained staff from entering hazardous areas.

Access control technology can be harnessed in a wide range of settings, from key fobs in low-security locations to biometric data in high security areas. However, access control systems are only as effective as the data management practices in place. If these are poor, you could risk an unauthorised member of staff - or even a trespasser – gaining entry to the restricted areas of your premises.

In this article, we will address the best practices for managing user data on access control systems, and outline how to develop an effective access control system policy.

What Are Access Control Systems?

Access control systems grant or deny access to an individual by verifying their identity and permissions using data. This ensures that only authorised personnel are permitted to enter restricted areas.

The data can be stored on a physical token such as a key fob or ID card, or alternatively, the user may be allocated a personal identification number (PIN). For the highest level of security, biometric data such as fingerprints or retinal scans can be used to identify the individual.

Access control systems can be used in commercial settings such as warehouses and offices, industrial premises such as factories, and public service areas such as hospitals and schools.

How Can Access Control Systems Be Used?

Access control systems can be used for several purposes, including:

• Preventing theft and vandalism

• Preventing untrained members of staff from accessing hazardous areas

• Safeguarding sensitive and personally identifiable data

• Tracking movements of staff in restricted areas through their date and time of access

The Different Types Of Access Control Systems

There are several types of access control systems, including:

Key Fob Access Controls - The individual is identified using a personal key fob. These types of access controls are most appropriate for low-security settings, as keys can be easily lost or stolen.

ID Card Access Controls - The individual is identified using their personal ID card. Like key fobs, ID cards can be lost or stolen - however, ID cards feature a picture to identify the cardholder, which can be checked by a member of security. These types of access controls are most appropriate for medium security settings.

PIN Number Access Controls - The individual is identified using their Personal Identification Number (PIN). The PIN Number should be committed to memory, and therefore should not be written down.

If this is effectively adhered to, PIN numbers cannot easily be acquired by trespassers. These types of access controls are therefore suitable for medium to high security settings.

Biometric Access Controls - The individual is identified using biometric data, such as fingerprints or retinal scans. This type of data cannot be lost, stolen, or provided to another person. These types of access controls are appropriate for high to very high security settings.

The Best Practices For Managing User Data On Access Control Systems

Regular auditing and management of user data is essential for ensuring the security of your premises.

The best practices for managing user data on access control systems include:

Regularly Reviewing And Updating Access Permissions – This involves updating the access permissions for members of staff whose roles have recently changed.

This can include altering their level of access – like for example, adding or removing permissions based on a promotion or demotion - or changing the times when staff members are authorised to be on-site, like if their shift pattern changes, for instance.

Removing Ex-Staff Members From The System – This involves deleting the access permissions for any members of staff who have left your organisation.

Checking Who Has Accessed Controlled Areas And When – With this function, you can identify an access breach caused by a staff member accessing a restricted area outside of their usual hours. And if an item has been taken, or data leaked, you can also use the access log to identify the perpetrator from the date and time of entry.

Deleting Access Logs - You may be required to delete out-of-date access logs to comply with relevant guidelines and legislation, or to free up space on the system. However, some access breaches might not be identified until months after the event. As such, you should store your access logs for a minimum of 12 months, unless there is a legislative ruling that states you should delete your access logs prior to this.

Carefully Controlling Short-Term Passes – A big threat for many organisations is the access given to their site to short-term visitors or contractors hired for defined lengths of time.

While some access control systems are designed so that all temporary passes are issued individually to each visitor, and marked with their specific details, many places will just hand out access fobs that allow anyone to come and go – which is a serious security risk that should be fixed as a priority.

In addition, if short-term passes are issued for contractors and/or temporary workers, it is vital that these are all reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they are still required – or if they are not necessary anymore, that the passes have all been handed back, with all those unaccounted for being deleted from the system.

Lastly, all visitors and contractors should be instructed not to pass their fobs/cards to anyone else without seeking prior permission.

How To Develop An Effective Access Control System Policy

Creating an effective access control system policy is essential for ensuring staff compliance.

When writing your access control system policy, you should consider the following factors:

What are your goals? Your staff should fully understand the purpose of your access control system, and the potential consequences of failing to comply with your policy.

For example, if the purpose of your access control system is to prevent theft, you should inform staff that exchanging their key fob or ID card with another person could cause valuables to be stolen, and that this could lead to them being held accountable.

Who does your access control system policy apply to? You should specify which personnel are required to adhere to your access control system. This can include employees, but also contractors, visitors, and customers.

Who is responsible? Your access control policy should set out individual responsibilities with regard to the access control system. For example, who is responsible for updating and maintaining the system?

How can you ensure that your policies and procedures are effectively communicated? All employees, contractors, and visitors who use your premises should be informed of the protocols and procedures which make up your access control system policy.

For example, this can include which staff members are allowed where and when, the types of identification required to access restricted areas, and how all user data is handled.

Consider running workshops or issuing guidance literature that clearly explains each of these aspects, and ensure that these are delivered to everyone necessary. In addition, you could include the details of the level of access a job provides, to the description of that position whenever anyone applies for or accepts a role.

Want to ensure that your access control systems are set up to be as secure as possible? Contact our expert team!


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