Best Practices for Automating Access Control in Manufacturing Plants

Best Practices for Automating Access Control in Manufacturing Plants
Best Practices for Automating Access Control in Manufacturing Plants

Maintaining and managing a secure facility is important to safeguard manufacturing assets. Access control is one of the basic security measures you need to undertake. It gives authorized personnel access to different resources in the plant and prevents unauthorized access. 
Simple gates and barriers with security personnel were used as primitive access control methods. Today a slew of software and hardware technology is available for setting up access control in manufacturing facilities. Modern technology has enabled more secure access control. At the core, these technologies use one or more of the following to authorize users:

  • Something you know: Something only the user will know can be used as a means of authorization. This includes passwords, PIN, secret codes, etc.
  • Something you have: Something only the user will possess can be used for authentication as a primary or secondary factor. This includes mobile phones, phone numbers, hardware keys, identity cards, key cards, etc.
  • Something you are: Biometric markers of the user can be used to authenticate users. This includes fingerprints, iris scans, voice recognition, etc.
 Modern access control systems are a blend of hardware and software elements. This combination can be used to unlock many use cases which were not imaginable without these technologies.

Automation of access control

Most installations of access control have the following components.
  • Credentials: It is what is used by authorized personnel to access a space or equipment. It can be something you are, something you have, or something you know. These include biometrics, passwords, PIN, key cards, etc.
  • Reader: It is the device that accepts the credentials from the employee. This could be in the form of biometric sensors, keypads, number pads, mag stripes, RFID scanners, etc. 
  • Server: It is the database where all authorized credentials are securely stored. When a reader takes input of a credential, it is matched with the credentials saved on the server to verify. The server also stores the log of authorizations, declines, and timestamps.
  • Control Panel: The control panel controls the locks to provide or deny access. If the credential at the reader matches with the credential on the server, the control panel sends instructions to unlock the barrier. Control panels can have the ability to raise alarms or send alerts if there is an attempt for unauthorized access. 
  • Locks: Locks are in place to securely close the barrier when it has to be closed. According to the instruction from the control panel, a lock opens or remains closed depending on the credentials received at the reader.

 A boon of modern access control technologies is that they enable automation. This is possible as software acts as the orchestrator that enables authorization with the hardware. Software-based automation is embedded in most access control software. 

Access to buildings and equipment can be defined at the level of employment role in your organization. When new employees join in a certain role, access to the required area is automatically assigned to them. There is no need to assign access to each area and equipment for each employee. 
Similarly, logging, incident reporting, auditing, etc, are some of the repetitive processes that can be easily automated. Automation of access control processes saves plenty of time that could have been wasted on repetitive processes. 

Access control automation: Best practices

Caption: RFID chips are the most commonplace authentication methods for access control. Source: Pixabay

Automating access control alleviates a lot of tedious manual processes in your manufacturing facility. You can rely on the following best practices to ensure that you do not have any security lapses in your manufacturing facility.

User provisioning

When a new employee joins the organization, adequate access should be given. Providing access to each new employee is repetitive and cumbersome. To avoid this, you need to segregate access using roles. This feature is available in most software used for access control management. When a new employee or a contractor joins, he just needs to be assigned the appropriate role. Adequate access will be automatically conferred according to the role. Similarly, to change the access level, you only have to change the access level for the corresponding role. Automated user provisioning is a practice all organizations should follow for access control.

Least privilege access

Each employee and their corresponding roles should only have access to the resources and equipment required to accomplish their task. They should not have any more access than that. All other privileges have to be blocked. It is an important consideration in designing access control for your manufacturing facility. Least privilege access is a protection from faults and malicious actions.

Rule-based access

In rule-based access control, a predetermined set of rules are used to manage access to buildings, areas in a facility, and equipment. An example of rule-based access is allowing access only during regular working hours, say 9 a.m to 5 p.m. 

Password hygiene

If your access control systems have any kind of passwords, PINs, security codes, etc, as one of the authentication methods, you need to have ideal password hygiene in place. Using the same password for long periods increases the odds of password leaks. Resetting them at regular intervals is ideal practice. Using difficult to guess yet easy to remember passwords has to be the norm. Special attention has to be taken to avoid reuse of passwords and PINs.

Multi-factor authentication

As discussed earlier, the three factors to authenticate users are something you know, something you have, and something you are. Authorizing users with just one of these factors is the minimum requirement for adequate security. Using multiple factors for authentication drastically reduces the chances of unauthorized access.

Change defaults

Default settings of security systems should not be used in regular operations. Default setting for access control devices and software is known to a wider audience. Using these defaults poses a security vulnerability. The first thing to be done when a new system is installed is to change the default settings, passwords and overrides.

Regular updates

Software and hardware manufacturers of access control systems regularly update their software to patch up any security vulnerabilities. When these patches are not applied, malicious actors can use known vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access. Ensure your devices and software are up to date. Consider changing access control devices and software when they are no longer supported by the manufacturers.

Terminate inactive access

When an employee or contractor with temporary access leaves the organization, you have to immediately revoke their access. Keeping around users that have already left the organization is a security threat. Terminating access can be automated by integrating with ERP software.

Logging and reporting

Logging access events should be a standard process. Who, what, when, and how, regarding each access event has to be logged. Regular reports have to be created based on these logs. Monitoring of logs can also be done to identify suspicious access with the help of artificial intelligence tools.

Reputed vendor

Many vendors are available in the market for installing and managing access control systems. You should identify a reliable vendor with a long track record for installation. Vendors like Safe and Sound Security have the capability of end-to-end installation of access control systems. Using such a vendor ensures you do not have to deal with multiple vendors for installation and maintenance of your access control systems. 
Want to know more about access control installers from Safe and Sound Security? Read More.

Automate access control for peace of mind

Managing access control is an important function to ensure the safety and security of resources in your manufacturing facility. Automating access control processes has to be a priority to make security procedures simple and streamlined. But any faults in the implementation of automation could leave a security vulnerability that malicious actors could exploit. Some of the best practices for safeguarding access control processes were discussed in this article. Following those steps is helpful in ensuring security systems have no vulnerabilities that can be compromised.

About The Author

Patrick Chown is the owner and president of business security systems installation company, Safe and Sound Security. Safe and Sound Security specializes in integrating security cameras, access control, burglar alarms and structured cabling for industrial and commercial facilities. Email him at [email protected].

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