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Buyer Beware: The Vulnerabilities of Traditional Access Control Systems that Compromise Security

Posted on January 15, 2019

When it comes to securing your premises, few other solutions come close to the matching electronic access control systems. Since a lot of the companies that provide them have been around for possibly decades, few of them ever bother to update the security features when new vulnerabilities are discovered.

To be fair, a lot of them are unaware of the existence of these exploitable bugs. You might be aware of some of them as well. Here are some vulnerabilities in these traditional systems that might make yours less safe.

Physical access to the system

Traditional electronic access control systems are usually mounted on the side of the door for easy access. They then require a code or electronic keycard to get the door open. Despite being easy to access for intended users, this is a large security problem.

An attacker that knows what they are doing can easily open up the keycard reader and hotwire it without triggering any alarms. Alternatively, a phishing device can be attached to the reader and keep track of any codes entered on the interface while transmitting them to a remote server.

A modern solution is placing the interface on the secure side of the door and installing Bluetooth readers with a large range instead. Unauthorized physical access is thus impossible.

Poor network access restrictions

Internet access is a necessary feature for a lot of access control systems - either via ethernet or Wi-Fi. In this case, unmounting the interface and gaining access to the company’s intranet is trivial. The interface can also be hacked to enable remote access. Either way, any data being sent across the network is now visible to the attacker.

With this regard, the most secure alternative to a vulnerable internet access point is using Bluetooth as an access control method rather than Wi-Fi. This both helps mitigate costs and increase security.

Lack of personal compliance

One noticeable flaw in traditional access systems is that while keycards do provide better security, they aren’t very different from normal keys. This leads to company security compliance policies like not sharing PINs or keeping the cards on their person at all times. These are usually quite difficult to enforce, creating a large security loophole.

Unlike keycards, which can simply be picked up somewhere and used without the knowledge of the owner, or shared PINs which are unlikely to be changed, phones offer more powerful security. People are much more likely to be careful with their phones than a keycard. A system that allows access via an app (which may rely on fingerprint authentication, for instance) is a lot more secure.

Bluetooth loopholes

While Bluetooth is great because it offers less chances for interference as compared to even an intranet, Bluetooth does transmit data unencrypted by default. This makes executing a man-in-the-middle attack that much easier. The solution to this is pretty simple - rely on proprietary encrypted Bluetooth systems instead.

For the layman, understanding these vulnerabilities is pretty difficult, and it’s even more difficult to diagnose them. Speak to an expert today. Call (949) 828-3008 for a consultation.

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