Access Control Is More Than Security
- By Michael Fickes
- November 1st, 2002
The term access control implies locked doors offering entry to those carrying authorized cards. On the other hand, access control can also describe a broader concept, one that controls access, but doesn’t always involve locking and unlocking doors.
The University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque has adopted this broader application with its photo ID LOBO card system. Used in conjunction with several C-CURE 800 Integrated Security Management Systems supplied by Software House of Lexington, Mass., LOBO cards sometimes unlock doors and sometimes only validate the holder’s membership in the university community. While less strict, validation performs important tasks, too. It promotes convenience for cardholders and assists university departments in need of information. Validation also limits liability problems for the university. Access control systems can handle all these chores.
With 25,000 students and 10,000 to 15,000 faculty members, the UNM campus houses a small city. Around this city lie a number of suburbs, including a medical school campus, a law school campus, a research park, four branch campuses and a separate organization called the extended university, which is located in Santa Fe.
C-CURE systems perform security and validation tasks for both the UNM main campus and its suburbs.
“The oldest use for these systems is card validation,” says Minerva Carrera, manager of ID Card services for the university. “Our five libraries and our recreational services organization are the largest users of validation.”
The university requires students, faculty and staff to have a current or valid photo ID LOBO card with a unique ISO number. But students being students and people being people, most everyone would like to share his or her card with others. Card validation procedures prevent this.
Librarians check photos on borrowers’ cards to make sure the photos and borrowers match. Card readers then check to make sure cards are current. A card swipe producing a green light proves the card valid. A red light means the card is invalid. Borrowers must have a valid card. The system helps maintain control of library materials and assures that materials are available for registered students and active faculty.
Similarly, the UNM recreational services center validates 3,000 to 5,000 cards per day for people entering the facility to work out.
“None of this is access control for security,” Carrera says. “You swipe your card at a reader in a kiosk. A person at the kiosk checks the red/green light readout and says your card is valid or not valid.”
At the rec center, the system screens out unauthorized users and preserves space for the many authorized users. In addition, Carrera notes, the system provides liability protection by helping to prevent those not affiliated with the university from using the center.
Tracking Patterns With C-CURE
The recreation center has another use for the system, which records the names of users in the C-CURE database. Shortly after the installation of the original system in 1995, recreation center administrators set out to check their belief that more women than men used the center. The information would bear on a major renovation then in the design stages. In fact, the data revealed that more men than women used the center. Nevertheless, many women worked out at the center, and the data from the study influenced the design of women’s facilities in the renovated center.
Recently, the recreation center embarked on another study, again using access data recorded in the C-CURE system. “We are studying the benefits of the rec center,” says Jim Todd, associate director of Recreational Services. “What do people do there? Do they exercise, take part in intramural sports, take a class in fly fishing or engage in other activities?”
The study will eventually compare the grade point averages of two groups: those that use the recreational services center and those that do not. The goal is to discover which group does better in school. According to Todd, the study has just begun and will eventually follow five or six freshman classes through graduation.
Access Control for Security
Make no mistake, C-CURE is an access control system designed to provide security, and the university does use it to provide security. Of the 90,000 valid LOBO cards held by members of the community, a small number have been authorized to gain entry to facilities requiring security. By and large, LOBO cards employ a magnetic stripe for use with swipe readers. Cards used to gain access to secure facilities also have a proximity strip.
The computer room in the card services department requires an authorized proximity card for access. According to Carrera, this use has less to do with security than with ensuring that the system functions the way it’s supposed to.
The basement of the fine arts building has also been equipped with a prox reader. About 1,000 cards have been authorized for access to this area, which contains soundproofed individual music practice rooms. “This building is close to a main street in Albuquerque,” Carrera says. “It is an area with lots of problems, including drug dealing and forms of crime. We wanted to make sure that students using these soundproofed rooms could do so at any time. So we’ve restricted use with prox cards.”
UNM’s main computer center has also been secured with proximity readers tied to C-CURE. Open 24 hours a day, this facility requires users to pass through two stages of security: presenting an authorized prox card to a reader and tapping in a personal identification number (PIN). “The PIN numbers ensure that lost cards don’t enable unauthorized people to get into the computer center,” Carrera says.
UNM will soon open a new childcare center on campus. Designed for the children of both students and employees, a proximity card access system will restrict entry to this facility.
UNM’s card validation systems do not, of course, employ alarms. The security system at the Music Center is connected to an audio alarm system that goes off if a door is held open for longer than a few seconds -- indicating that someone has propped a door open.
Another security system set up at the medical school does alarm into the campus police station. This system protects laboratories working with deadly substances such as the hanta virus and anthrax.
As important as security is to certain UNM installations protected by C-CURE, validation remains the most widespread use on the UNM campus -- because access control systems aren’t just for security anymore.