Physical Security and Electronic Security Systems


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Security is of paramount importance in any facility, home, business or organization. In a long time now security has been a concern of big financial organizations, businesses, the government and some social, political and economic organizations. But as time has gone by it has been appreciated as an essential measure in homes, streets, places of entertainment, sports and refreshment just as a precautionary measure to deter any potential harm to people in these set ups or facilities.

Physical security includes a number of measures applied in deterring or preventing unauthorized access to information, resources, facilities and even people. The unauthorized access attempts may be maliciously motivated for sabotage, theft, blackmail or vandalism, and as such they have to be prevented at all costs in order to safeguard the property, finances and personnel of an organization (Roper, 1996).

Physical security measures serve the purpose of preventing such access attempts or attacks on facilities and personnel and these may take various forms including locked entry points, armed guards, or even electronic technology designated to prevent an unauthorized access through early warning systems, or triggers that prevent access or visual access that precedes authorization of entry and electronic identification means that grant access on proof of identity (Roper, 1996).

Electronic access control (EAC) involves the use of electronic systems that grant or deny access through the use of elements such as passwords. In such systems the access points are ever locked for security purposes and entry can only be granted via the use of passwords or entry digital codes. The system is designated to recognize various codes that are assigned to various personnel that have access rights (Deutsche, 2009).

In its simplest and earliest form an EAC included an electronically locked entry point with the access personnel such as a receptionist or guard on the other side (probably through transparent barrier) who would look at the entrant and assess whether s/he is an authorized member. After recognizing the individual the security personnel “buzzes in” the entrant by triggering the electronic system to open the entry point.

As electronic technology advanced passwords and digital codes authorizing entry became popular. Basically, an EAC constitutes of an electric lock, a reader and controller. The reader reads the code or password entered and the controller matches it to codes awarded to authorized personnel and if the codes match then the electronic lock is triggered to open the entry point. The reader is what is usually mounted on the outside of the entry points (Deutsche, 2009).

Surveillance as a means of control in security offers a visual mode of assessing the entrants of a facility. Monitoring entry through visuals can be used to deter an unauthorized entry through various ways. This type of electronic technology makes use of cameras placed at the entry point, and these cameras relay visuals to the control room where the visuals are displayed on LD or CRT screens whose visuals are monitored by the security personnel.

The entry points may have locks that are electronically controlled by the security personnel in the surveillance room or physically by security personnel such as guards at the entry point. In such surveillance cases any person wishing to enter a premise has to present him/her self before the camera for his/her visual image to be relayed to the surveillance control room for authorization of entry (Phillips, 2002).

Once recognized as an authorized person, the security personnel may trigger the electronic lock to open and give entry, whereas; in cases involving physical guards, entry grants may be relayed via audio speakers or phone calls confirming entry. The advantage of surveillance modes is that they offer visual recordings that may be used in any later in investigations that may arise as a result of security breaches.

The identification of personnel entering any facility may also take various other forms of an electronic measure. These methods are designated in a manner similar to the earlier mentioned EAC format, where the electronic locks are used to prevent illegal entry, and the readers are placed on the exterior of the entry point for the purpose of identifying the entrants, while; the controlling system is located inside the secured area.

The readers are the only portions of the system that are accessible to the public. In more advanced systems these readers are made in such a way that they can recognize biometrics (personal identity or something that a person is) or credentials (something a person has). The credentials in the later case may include electronic cards or key fobs which can be read by an electronic card reader, and these cards may contain personal information stored in the electronic system for the purpose of identity (Lyon, 2007).

On the other hand, biometric readers that identify entrants have to read something on someone, such as the fingerprints, palm geometry, vein patterns in the fingers, face or scans of the retina. Radio frequency identification (RFID) is also another popular form of identification. This commonly uses the insertion of electronic chips under the skin, pocket or any object on the body of a person which can be read scanners from a distance.

A comparison of these security measures for control shows that each measure has some form of weakness that may lead to a breach of security. Electronic access control via passwords and digital codes presents a challenge because these may be easily stolen and used to access entry. Thus, making it easy to have illegal access, additionally; the entry of codes on the reader may lead to wear which can give away the pattern of codes entered or a keen observation of hand movements may allow a person to decipher the code (however, this may not be possible on scrambled keypads where number positions change).

Therefore, in order to make the use of EAC key pads effectively other security measures such as biometrics should be incorporated. The use of surveillance modes is also recognized as a secure means because it involves human assessment of faces for identity matching, electronic matching of faces may also be used but this may be easily compromised by hi-tech facial make up technology of the day.

Additionally, human error in identification of faces may occur by virtue of the fact that there are human similarities and people may look alike naturally or through the enhancement of make ups, thus distorting human perception of the security personnel. Therefore, in order to make this method effective, other methods have to be incorporated such as EAC codes and passwords or identity cards. The use of identification means such as biometrics are more efficient however; they are not invincible because , for example in the RFID case similar chips may be made, or people with the chips may be intimidated, maligned, coerced or blackmailed into using them to offer access and entry (Fernando, 2010).

In the worst case scenario people with even such insertions may have their body parts chopped off and have the parts with RFID parts used to gain entry, the same may occur in biometrics, especially with the hands. However, the use of biometrics and RFID may be identified as best means that cannot be easily breached, especially; the RFID because it does not have to be exposed during access and the reader can read it from a distance, even when in the pocket (Fernando, 2010).



Deutsche, W. (2009),. Introduction to electronic access control systems, retrieved on 10th January, 2010 from


Fernando, N. C. (2010),. Techno News record: Get identified under your skin, retrieved on 10th January, 2010 from


Lyon, D. (2007),.Surveillance studies: an overview, Polity Publishers


Phillips, B. (2002),.The complete book of electronic security, McGraw-Hill Professional publishers


Roper, A. C. (1996),. Physical Security and the Inspection Process, Butterworth-Heinemann


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