Much of physical security operation revolves around the basic concept of making sure no individual in a facility or on a campus is ever where they are not supposed to be. For many organizations, this is mission-critical with little to no margin for error. For example, in government facilities controlling physical access is largely a homeland security issue, while for private access businesses it can be the difference between financial success and failure.
In either case, the core objective is to protect people, property and assets — none of which can be accomplished without stringent identity management processes in place. With concerns of vandalism or workplace violence, intellectual property theft, liability and other security issues rising in frequency, the need to control and manage identities is the first line of defense for any organization.
To address the matter, the focus on physical access control systems (PACS) has shifted beyond basics such as card readers or turnstiles to IT-based physical identity and access management (PIAM). These systems deliver far more advanced functionality that encompasses ongoing knowledge and authentication of every identity who may be present in a facility or on a campus, based on their current access privileges in real-time.
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This can be a vast undertaking, particularly in organizations with multiple locations, hundreds of employees, or a heavy concentration of vendors, contractors, and personnel with very specific, limited and variable access privileges. What makes this immense organization, verification and ongoing updating possible is the convergence of physical security and the IT world, and the ability to automate PIAM systems via software.
Automating PIAM systems makes it possible for an organization to set rules, controls and policies that are maintained and updated instantly, and to onboard every identity and maintain correct authorization and provisioning for every identity in real-time. The software that can accomplish this monumental task utilizes PACS virtualization — whereby the software finds and connects devices and controllers with identity databases/networks, and virtualizes all required functions like switching and routing as PACS.
Every device and system, and every identity database and watch list — no matter the vendor, brand, source or protocol used — becomes another set of data points for the overall PIAM solution to incorporate. What is important is that now all these formerly disparate products and systems can be polled, programmed and controlled via a single platform. It’s the most efficient means of integrating an enterprise-level PIAM solution across any size organization despite the location and number of facilities it entails.
Ultimately, this total control of PIAM enables the user to create a virtual firewall around and within the organization — making it possible to address the most basic (and most important) of all security concerns: ensuring that no individual is ever where they are not supposed to be.
Ajay Jain is President and CEO of Quantum Secure (quantumsecure.com).