Protecting Animal Research Laboratories With Biometrics

A new type of access control reader that includes multispectral imaging biometrics ensures optimal security.

Unlike surface fingerprint characteristics, which can be obscured during imaging by moisture, dirt or wear, the “inner fingerprint” lies undisturbed and unaltered beneath the surface. When surface fingerprint information is combined with subsurface fingerprint information and reassembled in an intelligent and integrated manner, the results are more consistent, more inclusive and more tamper resistant. Fingerprints can be gathered even when wearing some latex gloves.

Now Access Authorization Is Verified
Looking at what the government was using for high-security applications requiring multifactor authentication, the laboratory selected the Rhino from Innometriks, a multi-modal reader that fuses smart cards, embedded multispectral imaging biometrics, PKI and digital signature technologies. Not only does the biometric search configuration provid
e one-to-one authentication but also a true one-to-many authentication. Enrollments are captured and stored in a central database. The template images are synced to appropriate readers and stored for instant access. When the sensor is touched, an image is captured and compared against the entire template base to identify the individual. Thus, the event is communicated to the physical access control system for access.

The readers could even stand up to the rigors of the cleaning rooms, where cages are brought in, washed with disinfectant chemicals and sprayed down with high pressure hoses.

Depending on the door to be entered, laboratory personnel do one of two things. At some doors, the user enters her PIN, which pulls up her biometric template. The user then puts her finger on the biometric sensor. If authorized, the reader says, “thank you” and the door unlocks. This is called one-to-one verification.  

At other doors using one-to-many verification, the user only touches his finger to the biometric sensor and the system checks to see if that template is authorized. If so, the door is unlocked. In one-to-one mode, the reader holds 50,000 templates; in one-to-many mode, it stores 10,000 templates. It is unlikely that any animal research lab would need more than that.

Risk Assessments, Training Ensure Greater Security
Securing other college facilities and hospitals sometimes takes the same type of preparation as securing a vivarium. The first step is to conduct a risk assessment of the institution’s facilities and an evaluation of the existing security system. For instance, where are the locations of keys and access to rooms? Where are the entrances and exit sites, including stairwells and roof access? Work with IT to ensure computer security and network access.

Next, where is research data is stored? This would include reviewing protocols for storage and access to confidential information as well as graphic or sensitive terminology. Organize a security plan. That would include limiting the access of delivery personnel and creating a communications plan in the event of an incident.  

Of course, once up and running, the system is only as effective as the campus staff and students who use it. They should be trained to not hold doors open for others and that everyone needs to use their credential to pass through an access point. Unauthorized personnel should not be allowed to enter the laboratory and, if there is any question, laboratory personnel should be instructed to call security for guidance. The organization should ensure that there is a program in place to revoke card access to the laboratory before a person leaves the employment of the laboratory.

John Cassise is the president and CEO of Innometriks.

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