Top 6 Questions Regarding Technology's Impact on Campus Security

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The influence of technology within today's learning environment is undeniable.

As a campus IT professional, you are undoubtedly faced with a complex set of challenges as you strive to advance higher education through information technology. One of the greatest opportunities you have is to provide a safe and enriching environment in which students can learn and grow.

The continued convergence of IT and security makes it possible to approach campus security in a much more comprehensive and holistic way. At the same time, this can bring about a number of questions and concerns. Read on for answers to some of the most common questions from IT professionals about improving campus security.

Q: How does convergence impact campus security?
A: The convergence of IT and security enables colleges and universities to manage both physical and logical security with the same policies and procedures, ensuring a more consistent, streamlined approach. Convergence also presents an opportunity to leverage the IT infrastructure to increase access control coverage at a much lower cost than traditional deployments. Just as we have seen in recent years with the proliferation of IP-enabled cameras, WiFi and Power over Ethernet (PoE) network infrastructure can be re-used to connect IP-enabled access control locks. The ability to expand the access control system more easily and affordably means a higher level of security across campus. In addition, the influence of IT standards on physical security can facilitate troubleshooting, ensure maximum performance and reliability, and minimize costs.

Q: What effect does that have on the network?
A: As an IT professional, it is your responsibility to protect the network, so it is only natural that you approach the addition of new types of devices with caution. One of the most common concerns we hear is the security of the information being transmitted. Be sure to verify that any solutions you consider are using AES-128 encryption and support the latest WiFi standards, and you'll find that you can easily extend your typical network security policies to physical security and access control.

It is also common to be concerned with how much bandwidth IP-enabled locks use. WiFi and PoE locks have negligible impact on network resources. Over the course of a day, each lock transmits only 5kB - 10kB of data when communicating with the network, either at scheduled intervals (WiFi) or throughout the day (PoE).

Battery-operated WiFi locks are not always communicating on the network - they are only on a few seconds a day to communicate updates and card privilege changes. WiFi locks are usually offline (asleep), waking up for an ‘alarm condition' or on a user defined schedule. Alarm conditions are also user defined and include, but are not limited to, card unknown, door prop, door forced, metal key used, low battery, etc. PoE locks operate in a similar way, but because of the PoE connection are able to communicate additional information, such as real-time door position status and unlock commands.

It is also common practice to create a "security" VLAN, which in most cases only consists of the IP locks and their associated server. This practice allows for the VLAN to be administered separately, helping alleviate issues related to changing wireless keys or encryption types.

Q: I am interested in increased access control but am concerned about the required maintenance of the associated systems. What do I need to be prepared for?
A: There are a variety of access control solutions available, each with varying levels of required maintenance. It is important to find a solution that balances your security needs with budget and maintenance requirements. One of the most frequent questions we hear regarding the maintenance of IP-enabled access control locks is actually quite simple — how often do I need to change the batteries in WiFi locks? There isn't a definitive answer — it varies depending on usage — but typically you could expect to change the batteries no more than once per year. Most campuses are finding the 16 to 18 month time window as optimal for battery life. We find that annual maintenance works well with campus schedules and is easily managed during winter and spring breaks. This maintenance is usually done by the lock shop with no burden to the IT department. In some cases, student housing workers are used to change the batteries. The battery level can be programmed as an ‘alarm event' sending an email to the maintenance department.

Q: How do I ensure that my user information is secure?
A: Utilizing the latest credential technologies is the best defense in protecting user information. These technologies use NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) cryptographic standards to provide comprehensive identity security. They also provide the flexibility to work across a broad range of smart devices, including mobile phones, micro-processor cards and wearables. You can feel confident that the access control system offers the same level of data security you enforce for other campus systems.

Q: Sustainability is an important objective for our campus. How does electronic access control contribute to these goals?
A: Electronic access control can have a significant impact on sustainability goals. Intelligent IP-enabled access control locks re-use your existing IT infrastructure and reduce the number of components needed to provide complete access control. In addition to reducing materials and associated manufacturing impacts, this also reduces costs and installation time. Equally as important, these solutions are extremely energy efficient and decrease power consumption up to 86% versus traditional access control solutions. Look for manufacturers who offer transparency, down to the individual ingredients used in their products. It is important to consider the full lifecycle of a product to understand its true impact on your sustainability objectives.

Q: What can I do to make it easier to keep up with changing technologies?
A: There is nothing more true about technology than how quickly it changes. In order to be prepared for this constant change, seek out a future-proof solution that makes it easier to adapt as new technology becomes available. We discussed the importance of credential technologies when it comes to protecting user information. This is an excellent example of something that is constantly evolving based on the latest security requirements. Thankfully, there are locks available that support legacy magstripe credentials as well as the latest contactless or smart card credentials and mobile access. This allows an easy transition as you migrate your user population to the newer credentials. Similarly, there may be relatively frequent changes to electronics to support the latest communication technologies or other advancements. Modular locks that allow you to upgrade components make it easier to adapt to changing technologies without having to replace entire units.

Do you have additional questions when it comes to implementing technology to improve campus security? Ask us! [http://intelligentopenings.hs-sites.com/campus]

For more information on other important issues related to campus security, check out our podcast series.


Jim Primovic, Director of Campus EAC Sales, ASSA ABLOY