The Advantages of Biometric Access Control vs. Traditional Methods of Access Control

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© Female photographer – Fotolia.com

Biometric access control systems offer some significant advantages over traditional methods of access control. These differences are most easily illustrated in examples that utilize large installations. In large installations, there are typically several different levels of access that individuals working in the installation have. The levels of access, however, may not be commensurate with the position the person has at the installation. A data entry clerk that, perhaps, works on classified information may actually have less access to the physical premises than a janitor who has a master key to an entire floor.

Taking a look at the two options, the advantages of biometric access control are quite easily observed.

Understanding Key Control

Tellingly, this article by Sargent Lock, a major manufacturer of security hardware for high-security installations, addresses issues with key control and is very long. It is long because there are quite a few problems with controlling access to physical keys.

In a traditional access control system, there are physical keys that have to be issued to specific people and there has to be some way of ensuring that the people issued those keys will not give them to people who do not have the same level of clearance. Somebody who has the motivation to violate the security protocols at the installation could not only give their key to someone else, they could make an imprint of it and cut a new key or simply allow someone into an area where they are not authorized to be. Unfortunately, in an access control system that utilizes physical keys, these problems are virtually impossible to fully control.

It’s also important to note that simple incompetence can cause serious security problems. Somebody losing their master key, for instance, may create a situation where any number of people can gain access to every door in a facility that needs to be secure.

Biometric access control helps to address all of these issues.

Biometric Designs

It is possible to forge someone else’s fingerprint. In fact, this has already been done in formal research, as reported by the IEEE, by hackers and even on popular science television shows. The reason the fingerprint was able to be forged in all cases, however, was due to a relatively unsophisticated biometric scanning system.

With a sophisticated biometric scanning system, it is virtually impossible to fool one’s way into accessing a resource that they are not authorized to access. A fake fingerprint, for instance, won’t have any sweat glands on it, won’t have the same conductivity of actual skin and will have other flaws that can be scanned for.

Biometric information, obviously, cannot be lost or misplaced. It also cannot be passed along to an individual nefariously or accidentally. This makes this type of access control much more secure than one that relies upon physical keys.

Physical keys can be given or accidentally distributed to anyone. The same is not true of biometric data, which is unique to every single person from whom it is recorded.