Preventing Access

The surest way to prevent theft is to keep the thief away from the equipment. However, thieves can be either insiders or outsiders. Therefore, access control devices are needed both to prevent access by unauthorized individuals and to record access by those authorized. A record of accesses can help identify who committed a theft.

The oldest access control is a guard, not in the firewall sense we discussed in Chapter 6 but in the sense of a human being stationed at the door to control access to a room or to equipment. Guards offer traditional protection; their role is well understood, and the protection they offer is adequate in many situations. However, guards must be on duty continuously in order to be effective; permitting breaks implies at least four guards for a 24-hour operation, with extras for vacation and illness. A guard must personally recognize someone or recognize an access token, such as a badge. People can lose or forget badges; terminated employees and forged badges are also problems. Unless the guards make a record of everyone who has entered a facility, the security staff cannot know who (employee or visitor) has had access before a problem is discovered.

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The second oldest access control is a lock. This device is even easier, cheaper, and simpler to manage than a guard. However, it too generates no record of who has had access, and difficulties arise when keys are lost or duplicated. At computer facilities, you cannot fumble for a key when your hands are filled with devices that might be ruined if dropped. A site also cannot ignore piggybacking: a person who walks through the door that someone else has just unlocked. Still, guards and locks afford simple, effective security for access to facilities such as computer rooms. In many situations, simple is better.