Published April 2020
Security has always been a top concern for higher education institutions, and that hasn’t changed. However, how schools protect their campuses and students has evolved since the early days of electronic access control. New innovations in campus card technology are designed to provide trusted security while balancing today’s expectations for a convenient, seamless experience.
To keep up with the latest advances in credentialing, colleges and universities across the country should take a close look at their campus card platform. Upgrading to smart card technology improves the overall security of the campus and control a university has over its campus card platform.
When it’s time to assess your platforms, you should ask:
1. Is our campus card technology secure or can it be easily duplicated?
2. How can our credential platform deliver the most value, now and in the future?
Generations of students, staff and faculty have enjoyed the convenience and efficiency that electronic credentials provide on college campuses. However, many schools still depend on the legacy technology they invested in decades ago, like magnetic stripe or low frequency proximity cards. Newer technology is available that’s encrypted and less vulnerable to security breaches. Transitioning to something more secure, like smart card technology and/or a mobile credential, can help defend against duplications or hacks.
“Devices that copy credential information, especially when a card isn’t encrypted, can be purchased for less than $40,” says Brian Marris, product manager, Allegion connected accessories. “If a hacker puts one of these products in a backpack, sometimes it just needs to be within a certain range to steal info from a proximity or mag stripe card. A student likely won’t even realize they’ve been compromised. There’s also concern over the kiosks like Key Me that duplicate RFID credentials. Anyone can use these machines.
“If my credential is copied, that offender can obtain access to all of the places I have access to—for example, my residence hall, the library, the student center. If I’m a teacher, that person can now get into faculty-only areas. Depending on what is accessible via my campus card and the number of cards he or she hacked, this can pose potential threats. The more secure the credential technology, the less likely this will happen.”
Smart credentials use a microprocessor and encryption algorithm to protect the data when it is transmitted over the air. When a smart card transmits its data, only hardware with the correct key can provide the right authentication and decrypt the data.
Mobile credentials that are encrypted are another great choice to improve security. Inherently, students are more protective of their phones. They are less likely to lose their mobile device, and if they do, they will be quick to notice compared to a student ID card or brass key. They’re also far less likely to loan someone their phone versus their student ID card. Pair this with multifactor authentication, like biometrics or pin codes, and there is a much higher probability that only those who should have access to a given space can actually gain access.
Migrating to a smart technology for improved security is the goal for many institutions. In fact, Allegion has seen more colleges and universities purchasing smart technology over the legacy options in recent years. Whether that transition is to a smart card or a mobile credential depends on the readiness of each school. There might be internal reasons to stay with a physical card for now, but it’s still important to choose hardware that’s mobile-enabled. Otherwise, the hardware you install today will need replaced again in the future. The right migration plan will position your school for success.
Remember that the credential platform you choose today will dictate what you’ll get in the future. As you evaluate your migration path, interoperability should be top of mind. Interoperability refers to the openness of the credential. Simply put, it means more choices in technology, hardware and manufacturers and a more convenient path to adopting new technology as it becomes available.
“It’s not uncommon for a university to unknowingly confine itself to a single manufacturer,” says Marris. “They get locked into a proprietary space and now they have to buy all of their hardware and software from specific vendors. Our goal is to educate the industry on the value of open, interoperable solutions that allow schools to pick and choose the products they need for their campus to operate as securely and efficiently as possible.”
Put security choices and long-term financial independence in your hands. Learn more about the benefits of open credentials.
Take greater control over your campus cards by upgrading to smart technology. Achieve greater peace of mind, and when the time is right—today or a few years from now—enjoy the appeal of a mobile campus ecosystem.
As you start evaluating your campus credentials, it’s important to look at the big picture. Choose the credential that’s going to deliver the most value to your university—today and in the future.