August 17, 2022
Rethinking access control for today’s flexible workplace
By Michel Roig
By Michel Roig
Over the years, approaches to supporting employee wellbeing have evolved. Ensuring job satisfaction, mental health support, and flexible and hybrid working are just some of the measures used.
But what about ensuring people feel safe and protected? Workers feeling vulnerable poses a significant risk to wellbeing.
While security has always been a priority, one of the most recent approaches to employee wellbeing – flexible and hybrid working (or “Working from Anywhere”, WFA) – might have created new risks...
Securing the workplace in 2022
Despite most pandemic restrictions being lifted, WFA is here to stay. Surveys of UK employees revealed that the proportion of WFA workers almost doubled between February and May 2022.
However, WFA means employers have to secure digital estates wherever and whenever employees are working. This is a significant challenge as companies have to respond to increased digital threats and apply enterprise security to domestic settings.
There are also challenges in physical access that are worrying workers. Even before the pandemic, findings from the Society of Human Resource Management revealed that roughly one in seven Americans do not feel safe at work.
The scale of the challenge requires companies to critique their current security solution and consider carefully whether it provides a smart, secure workplace that supports employee wellbeing.
The trust factor behind securing the flexible workplace
One of the biggest factors that underpins workplace security is human behavior. Security, both digital and physical, is everybody’s responsibility.
This means many organizations focus on security through training and the induction process for new starters. But it takes more than just a training session to support the human element behind security. Where once we could use our instincts to help workplace security, since WFA went mainstream, there’s a risk that these have been eroded.
With WFA, seeing new faces in the workplace will be common. Previously, trust instincts might have kicked in and employees would have challenged unrecognizable faces. Today, there’s a risk that they will not notice or challenge them. Although this is less of a problem in small organizations, the larger the workforce, the bigger the risk; and it takes only one malicious person to exploit this vulnerability.
Why biometrics make sense for today’s workplace security challenges
As companies examine their security needs, a good starting point is to look at access control and authentication methods: are you introducing unnecessary risk by relying solely on traditional authentication approaches?
PIN pads and access cards might have previously been sufficient, but in today’s workplace ecosystem and the additional security challenges of WFA, they might not be meeting all the requirements.
Traditional credentials are highly vulnerable. Cards and keys can be lost or stolen, PINs and passwords can be hacked, seen by “shoulder surfers”, traded online, or breached through brute force attacks. Even employees sharing credentials, although strongly discouraged, present a significant risk to workplace security. While PINs and passwords can be changed, this is a burden to both employees and security managers.
What’s needed is a physical access control solution that makes the user the key, is smart, convenient, highly resistant to compromise and responds to the challenges of WFA. This is why biometrics for physical access makes sense, either on its own or as part of a multi-factor authentication approach.
Not only do biometrics enhance security, but it also helps security serve as a pillar for organizational efficiency, productivity and asset optimization. Deploying biometrics also demonstrates a commitment to creating a smarter, more secure workplace dedicated to protecting employees.
Biometrics for a smarter workplace: not just a concept
Using biometrics to secure workplaces is more of a reality than many people think.
For organizations that already rely on access cards, biometric solutions from providers such as Sentry, Feitian, Cardlabs and Freevolt, all of which use Fingerprints’ technology, are available. All these solutions work with existing access card infrastructure to increase biometrics’ commercial viability.
When navigating biometrics in security strategies, the on-device approach, whereby the biometric data is stored, matched and authenticated securely within the device/card facilitates integration. This removes the cost and burden of creating, maintaining and protecting a centralized database of credentials and minimizes the risk of biometric data being hacked.
Biometric access cards have the added benefit of enabling converged access control, where users have the same card for any authentication use case throughout the workplace. For logical access, biometrics can be viewed as the first step in ‘Zero Trust’ strategies, which are attracting more attention in light of critical digital security challenges.
Beyond cards, with the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution increasing the number of connected devices and smart buildings, smartphone biometrics can be leveraged as part of a smarter, integrated security strategy, helping create a truly next-gen smart workplace.
Security and access control challenges have changed significantly, and it is vital that the available technology responds accordingly. This is why readily available biometric technology is essential, enabling a rapid transition to more robust security that doesn’t sacrifice convenience.
Over the years, R&D have transformed biometrics to make it a reliable, secure, effective, logical and physical access control solution – a stark contrast to the early days of easy spoofing and frustrated users. And it’s not ending there. Ongoing innovation will make biometrics increasingly sophisticated and open new use cases to transform access control for smart homes and workplaces.
Biometrics has an opportunity to be not just a tool, but as a key security partner in an increasingly challenging ecosystem, helping decision makers respond to current and future needs.