Why Buy an RFID Door Lock?

Written by jason gillikin
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Why Buy an RFID Door Lock?
RFID locks use cards to gain access to secure locations. (pay security image by iMAGINE from Fotolia.com)

There are dozens of ways to lock a door, and each strategy has its strengths and weaknesses. One method that is growing in popularity in commercial settings is an electronic lock with a radio-frequency identification card to grant or deny access. These locks provide a much more basic level of control and a detailed access log.

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RFID Locks

A radio-frequency identification lock works electronically. The lock mechanism is controlled by computer. As cards with an RFID chip are passed in front of a sensor, the computer determines whether the unique code embedded in the chip is on a "pass" list. If it is, the lock disengages and allows access. If not, the door remains locked. RFID chips are often included on credit-card-size badges that must be swiped within a foot of the card reader.

Security Implications

RFID locks are increasingly attractive because they allow security administrators to grant peruser access to various doors simply by allowing or disallowing a particular RFID-enabled access card. This significantly reduces the problem of lost keys and of granting master or sub-master keys to people who may not have a legitimate need for going everywhere the key might allow. If an access card is lost, it is simply deactivated and a replacement issued with no corresponding loss of security for the organisation.

Audit Logging

One significant benefit to RFID locks is audit logging. Because each access attempt must be checked against a computer, it is possible to log every person who successfully (or unsuccessfully) tries to gain entry to a particular door. This audit capacity is useful for conducting investigations or assessing how often a particular secured asset (like a storage room) is accessed.

Cost of Ownership

Although an RFID-aware electronic lock can cost more to install than a traditional key-and-deadbolt system, it might provide long-term cost savings in key-cutting expenses for high-traffic areas. In addition, the audit-friendly, real-time management can reduce delays in granting employee access and cut down on employee theft.

Lock Management

Despite the benefits of an RFID-aware electronic lock, it has some drawbacks. In particular, an electronic lock functions only when it has a consistent power source. Although most locks fail by default into a "locked" condition, some doors (such as emergency egress doors) must fail into an "open" status, which can have significant security implications. In addition, an electronic lock is only as secure as the person who has the privilege of granting access, so an unscrupulous system administrator could undermine the security infrastructure if an internal-control process is not followed.

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