Access control systems are constantly evolving as the technologies change and make it easier for individuals to authenticate their digital identity. While biometrics – which recognize a person through behavioral or biological characteristics – is slowly gaining ground, there is still a long way to go before it reaches mainstream adoption. Instead, many access control systems are using near-field communications.
NFC technologies allow people to use several different types of credentials to authenticate their identity, according to a report by A&S Magazine. In many cases these come in the form of contactless ID cards but as the mobile landscape expands, NFC tools are more often being integrated into smartphones.
"This new way of thinking is driving fundamental changes in how we deliver and manage secured identities," said Tam Hulusi of HID Global, according to A&S Magazine. "Today's new form factors for credentials improve user convenience and flexibility but they also raise questions about how to ensure that all identities can be trusted."
Enterprise decision-makers weigh NFC pros and cons
Pundits against the use of NFC-enabled smartphones for access control say the technology is incapable of determining if its user truly is who they say they are, according to A&S Magazine. If someone were to lose their phone, for example, someone else may pick it up and use it to gain entry to restricted areas that otherwise would have been out of reach.
Another common vulnerability is the potential for eavesdropping, according to a separate report by Radio-Electronics. This is when a third party intercepts the signal between two communicating devices, allowing them to use it for personal gain.
Despite these concerns, there are also a number of security benefits associated with using NFC-enabled smartphones.
"NFC-based phones will verify personal identities and any other relevant rules – such as whether the access request is within the permitted time frame – and then send a trusted message to the door that it should open, using cryptographically secured communication," Hulusi said, according to A&S Magazine. "This will make it possible to deploy inexpensive yet robust access systems for applications like interior doors, filing cabinets and storage units for valuable or controlled materials."
Additionally, smartphones are much bulkier and more often essential in daily activities performed by users. As a result, individuals are much more likely to notice when their phone is missing than when a small ID card is misplaced, the news source said. If this happens, decision-makers can remotely wipe the information stored on the smartphone, eliminating an outsider's ability to use it as a credential or gather confidential information.
A separate report by Juniper Research noted that approximately one in every five smartphones will have NFC contactless functionalities by 2014. This will equal roughly 300 million total devices, of which half will be accounted for in North America.
As smartphones continue to evolve, it will be up to decision-makers to weigh the pros and cons of using the devices for access control credentials.