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Princeton unveils new dormitory lock system

Colleges and universities throughout the United States have long since used access control systems for locking the doors to dormitories and other restricted buildings on campus. In most cases, the authorization devices on the outside of the building were card-based, only allowing individuals with the appropriate credentials to enter. However, personal dorm rooms generally used a keypad, which sometimes were easy to crack.

In an effort to reduce the possibility of theft and unauthorized entry to bedrooms, administrators at Princeton University in New Jersey implemented a new contactless access control system that is used for both the outside of dormitories and individual rooms, according to a report by CR80 News. Instead of entering a PIN to get into their bedrooms, students can tap the same ID card used at the building against a personal reader to get into their room.

"The housing department wanted something more robust," said Keith Tuccillo, system administrator for life safety and security systems at Princeton, according to CR80 News. "This is to avoid students choosing 1-2-3-4 as their PIN."

The electronic access control system also uses a new concept in which it stores the authorization data on the card, rather than forcing readers to communicate with a data center located off-site. This eliminates problems of authenticating identities with systems that are temporarily or permanently offline, the news source said.

In traditional access control environments, an individual's rights are revoked when the central network is informed. If a certain building is offline, however, people are able to enter the facility even if their privileges have been taken away, CR80 News. By storing data on the card, any reader that communicates with the device will know not to grant entry. Furthermore, the internal doors operate on a separate schedule and reset privileges that can only be reactivated when a student uses his or her card on an external reader.

"Rather than granting privileges with no expiration or extremely long life spans, [the system grants] short term privileges and use the power of [several] hotspots to facilitate rapid, seamless revalidation," access control expert Mike Mahon said, according to CR80 News.

A separate report by Campus Security Magazine said it doesn't matter what type of access control system a school has, as long as it has one. These can include traditional lock and keys, electronic lock systems, biometric or magnetic swipe readers.

If administrators don't have the proper security solutions in place, they are jeopardizing the safety of students, faculty, staff and other members of the community.

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