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In physical security and information security, access control (AC) is the selective restriction of access to a place or other resource, while access management describes the process. The act of accessing may mean consuming, entering, or using. Permission to access a resource is called authorization.
Geographical access control may be enforced by personnel (e.g. border guard, bouncer, ticket checker), or with a device such as a turnstile. There may be fences to avoid circumventing this access control. An alternative of access control in the strict sense (physically controlling access itself) is a system of checking authorized presence, see e.g. Ticket controller (transportation). A variant is exit control, e.g. of a shop (checkout) or a country.
The term access control refers to the practice of restricting entrance to a property, a building, or a room to authorized persons. Physical access control can be achieved by a human (a guard, bouncer, or receptionist), through mechanical means such as locks and keys, or through technological means such as access control systems like the mantrap. Within these environments, physical key management may also be employed as a means of further managing and monitoring access to mechanically keyed areas or access to certain small assets.
Physical access control is a matter of who, where, and when. An access control system determines who is allowed to enter or exit, where they are allowed to exit or enter, and when they are allowed to enter or exit. Historically, this was partially accomplished through keys and locks. When a door is locked, only someone with a key can enter through the door, depending on how the lock is configured. Mechanical locks and keys do not allow restriction of the key holder to specific times or dates. Mechanical locks and keys do not provide records of the key used on any specific door, and the keys can be easily copied or transferred to an unauthorized person. When a mechanical key is lost or the key holder is no longer authorized to use the protected area, the locks must be re-keyed.
Electronic access control (EAC) uses computers to solve the limitations of mechanical locks and keys. A wide range of credentials can be used to replace mechanical keys. The electronic access control system grants access based on the credential presented. When access is granted, the door is unlocked for a predetermined time and the transaction is recorded. When access is refused, the door remains locked and the attempted access is recorded. The system will also monitor the door and alarm if the door is forced open or held open too long after being unlocked.
When a credential is presented to a reader, the reader sends the credential's information, usually a number, to a control panel, a highly reliable processor. The control panel compares the credential's number to an access control list, grants or denies the presented request, and sends a transaction log to a database. When access is denied based on the access control list, the door remains locked. If there is a match between the credential and the access control list, the control panel operates a relay that in turn unlocks the door. The control panel also ignores a door open signal to prevent an alarm. Often the reader provides feedback, such as a flashing red LED for an access denied and a flashing green LED for an access granted.
The above description illustrates a single factor transaction. Credentials can be passed around, thus subverting the access control list. For example, Alice has access rights to the server room, but Bob does not. Alice either gives Bob her credential, or Bob takes it; he now has access to the server room. To prevent this, two-factor authentication can be used. In a two factor transaction, the presented credential and a second factor are needed for access to be granted; another factor can be a PIN, a second credential, operator intervention, or a biometric input.
A credential is a physical/tangible object, a piece of knowledge, or a facet of a person's physical being that enables an individual access to a given physical facility or computer-based information system. Typically, credentials can be something a person knows (such as a number or PIN), something they have (such as an access badge), something they are (such as a biometric feature), something they do (measurable behavioural patterns), or some combination of these items. This is known as multi-factor authentication. The typical credential is an access card or key-fob, and newer software can also turn users' smartphones into access devices.
There are many card technologies including magnetic stripe, bar code, Wiegand, 125 kHz proximity, 26-bit card-swipe, contact smart cards, and contactless smart cards. Also available are key-fobs, which are more compact than ID cards, and attach to a key ring. Biometric technologies include fingerprint, facial recognition, iris recognition, retinal scan, voice, and hand geometry. The built-in biometric technologies found on newer smartphones can also be used as credentials in conjunction with access software running on mobile devices. In addition to older more traditional card access technologies, newer technologies such as Near field communication (NFC), Bluetooth low energy or Ultra-wideband (UWB) can also communicate user credentials to readers for system or building access.
Access control decisions are made by comparing the credentials to an access control list. This look-up can be done by a host or server, by an access control panel, or by a reader. The development of access control systems has observed a steady push of the look-up out from a central host to the edge of the system, or the reader. The predominant topology circa 2009 is hub and spoke with a control panel as the hub, and the readers as the spokes. The look-up and control functions are by the control panel. The spokes communicate through a serial connection; usually RS-485. Some manufactures are pushing the decision making to the edge by placing a controller at the door. The controllers are IP enabled, and connect to a host and database using standard networks
2. Serial main and sub-controllers. All door hardware is connected to sub-controllers (a.k.a. door controllers or door interfaces). Sub-controllers usually do not make access decisions, and instead forward all requests to the main controllers. Main controllers usually support from 16 to 32 sub-controllers.
3. Serial main controllers & intelligent readers. All door hardware is connected directly to intelligent or semi-intelligent readers. Readers usually do not make access decisions, and forward all requests to the main controller. Only if the connection to the main controller is unavailable, will the readers use their internal database to make access decisions and record events. Semi-intelligent reader that have no database and cannot function without the main controller should be used only in areas that do not require high security. Main controllers usually support from 16 to 64 readers. All advantages and disadvantages are the same as the ones listed in the second paragraph.
4. Serial controllers with terminal servers. In spite of the rapid development and increasing use of computer networks, access control manufacturers remained conservative, and did not rush to introduce network-enabled products. When pressed for solutions with network connectivity, many chose the option requiring less efforts: addition of a terminal server, a device that converts serial data for transmission via LAN or WAN.
The most common security risk of intrusion through an access control system is by simply following a legitimate user through a door, and this is referred to as tailgating. Often the legitimate user will hold the door for the intruder. This risk can be minimized through security awareness training of the user population or more active means such as turnstiles. In very high-security applications this risk is minimized by using a sally port, sometimes called a security vestibule or mantrap, where operator intervention is required presumably to assure valid identification.
The second most common risk is from levering a door open. This is relatively difficult on properly secured doors with strikes or high holding force magnetic locks. Fully implemented access control systems include forced door monitoring alarms. These vary in effectiveness, usually failing from high false positive alarms, poor database configuration, or lack of active intrusion monitoring. Most newer access control systems incorporate some type of door prop alarm to inform system administrators of a door left open longer than a specified length of time.
Many access control credentials unique serial numbers are programmed in sequential order during manufacturing. Known as a sequential attack, if an intruder has a credential once used in the system they can simply increment or decrement the serial number until they find a credential that is currently authorized in the system. Ordering credentials with random unique serial numbers is recommended to counter this threat.
The need to know principle can be enforced with user access controls and authorization procedures and its objective is to ensure that only authorized individuals gain access to information or systems necessary to undertake their duties.
In computer security, general access control includes authentication, authorization, and audit. A more narrow definition of access control would cover only access approval, whereby the system makes a decision to grant or reject an access request from an already authenticated subject, based on what the subject is authorized to access. Authentication and access control are often combined into a single operation, so that access is approved based on successful authentication, or based on an anonymous access token. Authentication methods and tokens include passwords, biometric analysis, physical keys, electronic keys and devices, hidden paths, social barriers, and monitoring by humans and automated systems. 2b1af7f3a8