SecurityBrief Australia - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
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Cybersecurity risks of legacy access control systems
Mon, 25th Mar 2024

Many organizations are holding onto access control systems that date back 10 years or more. While these older systems still allow employees to badge in and out, this kind of legacy technology can be dangerously vulnerable to cyber threats. Vulnerabilities in legacy access control systems can introduce cybersecurity weaknesses that may put an entire organization at risk.

New and more cyber secure access control solutions feature end-to-end encryption and advanced authentication to defend against cyberattacks and malware. A modern, unified approach to access control can make organizations more resilient to cyber threats while also delivering more value than simply locking and unlocking doors.

Around the world, savvy cybercriminals are hunting for security gaps to gain access to facilities, surveillance systems, and sensitive data that they can sell on the black market or use to extort a company. Those that are affected pay a heavy price; the average cost of a data breach rose from USD 4.24 million in 2021 to USD 4.35 million in 2022, but the cost for some companies has been in the tens of millions.

Computers and servers aren’t the only devices that are vulnerable to cyber threats. Any device connected to the internet or an organization’s local area network can be a weak point when it comes to cybersecurity.

Vulnerabilities in legacy access control systems can introduce cybersecurity weaknesses that put organizations at risk. Emerging cyber threats can target these vulnerabilities at every level: at the credential, the controller, and the server or workstation.

If a hacker breaches a network in order to gain access to sensitive data such as proprietary information or customers’ private information, the impact of a cybersecurity breach in an access control system can cause damage far beyond the doors. It can not only impact a company’s bottom line, but also potentially damage its reputation, jeopardize its customers’ privacy, and more.

Hence, enterprise, government, education, and public safety organizations are moving away from at-risk proprietary solutions in favour of secure access control solutions. They’re looking for a unified physical security platform built with cybersecurity in mind. 

Cybersecurity weaknesses in legacy access control systems

Most access control systems today are Internet Protocol (IP) based, connected to a local network through the Internet. IP-based systems are powerful, but legacy systems lack vital cybersecurity features that are necessary to defend against ever-evolving cyber threats.

An access control system is only as strong as its weakest link. Cybercriminals can exploit weaknesses in access control system credentials, controllers, servers, or workstations connected to the network. Once someone has breached a network, they can gain control of other building systems, view or steal sensitive information from internal records, or launch attacks designed to take key systems offline.  

Cybersecurity best practices for access control systems  

Access control technology has undergone a huge transformation in recent years. This traditionally proprietary market has now shifted to a more open one. Customers are not always locked in with one provider, and as a result, companies are developing more innovative products and services. These new, more cyber-secure solutions feature end-to-end encryption, advanced authentication, and other features to defend against cyberattacks and malware. 

To improve the cybersecurity of their network, companies should:  

  • Upgrade their systems: older systems were not built to address today’s threats or regularly assess the level of protection against potential new threats 
  • Use secure mobile credentials and the latest communication protocols to secure data sent over the internet 
  • Provide training to employees to educate them about cybersecurity best practices and ensure they are often prompted to update passwords  
  • Use an identity management system to ensure users can only access areas and data that relate to their role and current employee status 
  • Create separate local networks for devices that store or share highly sensitive information so that it cannot be accessed from the regular network 
  • Take a zero-trust approach with a multilayer cybersecurity approach 
  • Choose a security provider who can demonstrate compliance with established security control frameworks 
  • Ensure access control systems use proven data encryption methods as well as multi-step authentication 
  • Work with a partner that has a dedicated team to monitor cyber threats and ensure the software is updated frequently, patched as needed and communicates transparently and proactively 

Modern access control systems are more than just cyber-secure 

A unified access control system that uses the latest cybersecurity standards to secure communication, servers, and data such as GenetecTM Security Center Synergis can not only better protect an organization’s assets and people but help them improve their business operations and decision-making that go beyond locking and unlocking doors. By choosing an open architecture IP-based access control system, organizations have the power to upgrade to the latest supported technology at any time, move at their own pace, and work within their available budget.

Modern access control systems use the latest cybersecurity standards to secure communication, servers, and data at every level of the architecture. With advanced protection from access cards to software, businesses can manage access to their premises with confidence, knowing that prying eyes are kept out.