Mechanical Keys are no longer the only solution to secure a building. Keys can however, also introduce a major security risk if not properly planned and controlled when specifying security solutions. This article provides five ways to eliminate keys without compromising security.
For hundreds of years, we have been protecting our homes, cars and property with mechanical keys and have felt safe and secure.
With advancements in technology, keys are no longer the only option to secure a building.
Some of the advancements in modern technology have actually highlighted some significant risks with mechancal keys that should be carefully considered when specifying security solutions.
Keys can be easily duplicated, or shared
Anyone can walk into a high street locksmith and for less than £10, have a duplicate key cut in minutes.
The main way to avoid this is to use a registered or restricted key set.
This type of key set means that you need to go to a registered locksmith and demonstrate that you are the owner of the key before you can have a key cut.
However, with advances in 3D Printing technology this may not be infallible for much longer.
Keys are hard to control effectively
As keys can be easily duplicated or shared, it is vital that there is an accurate log of who has taken what key and when.
Ideally, there should be a wall mounted, locked key cabinet which is only opened when someone removes and returns a key.
Key movements should be logged in a register, with a robust procedure in place if someone fails to return a key, or loses a key they have taken.
Unless this procedure has been implemented from day one, there is little hope of controlling keys effectively.
Producing an audit of which keys and locks are on a site and the number and permutations of keys which people have is a significant undertaking
Key management is labour intensive
Part of the reason why mechanical keys are still heavily used today is the perception that they are a low cost solution.
Compared to installing a wired electronic access control system to a door, versus fitting a mechanical lock, you could be forgiven for thinking that a mechanical solution is cheaper.
When you factor in the labour and administration of controlling keys, replacing or re-keying locks when a key is lost and conducting regular audits, the costs add up very quickly.
Keys do not provide an audit trail
Assuming we have been working on a site since it opened, and implemented the controls and procedures in step 2, we have eliminated most of the common problems associated with keys.
The use of the key itself is still not audited.
This could mean that someone is in possession of a key that they are authorised to have, has passed that key to someone else (which hasn’t been logged in the audit trail).
Or someone has a master key, which has been used to enter an area that they are not authorised to access – we still don’t have a full audit trail.
If you compare this to a card based access control system, each person has a card that is personally assigned to them by a system administrator.
If they attempt to gain access to an area that they should not, then an audit trail is produced and the incident can be investigated.
Measures such as requiring a PIN code to verify the card holder, or using anti-pass back to prevent a card being passed between people at a turnstile can reduce the impact someone can have by sharing their card.
Keys can be used to override other security measures
If you take a look at locks used for both wired and wireless access control, you will commonly see a key override option.
This enables someone to gain access if the access control system fails – or, for example, in an extended power failure where the batteries of the access control system and supplementary power are exhausted.
In this instance, it doesn’t matter what type of card or biometric credential is used, or how secure the access control system is, if those override keys are not carefully controlled, the access control system is useless.
When will you eliminate your mechanical keys? Let me know in the comments below!