Smart card, smart solution
May 1, 2001 12:00 PM
By Kate Henry
How American Nevada Corp. and its parent company secure their physical, intellectual and human assets.
Until a year ago, smart cards, smart chips, seamless integration of access control, surveillance, asset tracking and information security were things that Xavier Peterson only read about.
"I read about universities that were using multi-technology cards for everything from stored value at the cafeteria, to secured dorm access, and I read about multi-card applications at the FBI," says Peterson, security director for property developer American Nevada Corp, a Greenspun company. "I always wondered if I would ever get to use equipment like that."
Today, Peterson has learned firsthand about smart card applications.
At the behest of Greenspun corporate principals, who own the Las Vegas Sun newspaper and recently moved it into new offices, Peterson began researching physical security measures for American Nevada that would complement the Sun's high-tech orientation. One year later, the result is an integrated access control, surveillance and badging system, complete with multi-technology smart cards.
Securing all manner of property
American Nevada Corp., Henderson, Nev., is a retail, residential and commercial development company, with more than 100 employees. The company has more than 20 commercial properties and numerous retail sites and master-planned residential communities.
During the past five years, Peterson's responsibilities have evolved from administering security for American Nevada to serving the larger Greenspun Co. security needs.
Until a year ago, security measures at American Nevada consisted of standard-issue access and fire systems, according to Peterson. "We had key cards for an access control system that was monitored at a local central station. We had various fire systems with no loyalty to any one provider ¡ª just whatever was the best product or service for that commercial need," he says. "There was no integration."
The Sun uses Sun Microsystems' Sunray secure computer logon system and, as such, Greenspun wanted a complimentary system that would meet its security need five or even 10 years down the line.
Chris Wellendorf, manager of MIS for The Las Vegas Sun, adds, "The level of security has increased, using the Sunray system. Managing two servers, the second for redundancy, compared to 75 PCs, is much easier. In the worst-case scenario, if a virus hits the company, it's much more feasible to eliminate the virus on one server than many PCs. You can also lock down the servers so the users don't have the ability to run executable files that might carry viruses. All the user applications are controlled on the servers."
Peterson also affirms that the Sunray system has proven more secure and reliable. Editors and writers can access the server to log on to their stories using Schlumberger's smart chip Payflex module on any monitor in The Sun's offices. Peterson points out that for a newspaper, securing proprietary information is a top priority. "From a physical security angle, the system is secure because it cannot be accessed outside the office, and if someone tried to steal the computers, all they could physically take away are the monitors, but no information," Peterson says.
"We needed an access system that would use the smart cards needed to log on to the Sunray system. It also needed to be integratable with digital cameras, double as a badging system and provide us with flexibility and upgrade capabilities," he explains.
The card is the key
The time is now for smaller smart card applications, according to Debra Spitler of HID Corp.
"HID had been working to develop a partnership with Schlumberger that would allow us to provide multi-technology credentials in small quantities to customers such as American Nevada," Spitler explains. "Because multi-technology credentials are so new to the marketplace, the biggest challenge is understanding exactly what technologies are needed to pull together the right resources to cost-effectively manufacture and sell a credential that meets the end-user's requirements."
Peterson enlisted the help of HID, which had begun supplying its SmartProx II cards to American Nevada for building access. HID worked closely with the director of MIS at The Las Vegas Sun, to embed the Schlumberger chip into the HID proximity cards. Peterson asked Schlumberger to imbed 300 chips into the HID cards to work on the American Nevada system.
Before he knew it, Peterson had the sample cards in hand.
An important benefit of the project for Peterson was developing a well-balanced relationship with The Sun's MIS department. The relationship allowed the Sun's MIS staff to program the chips and train employees on the Sunray system.
"I had to find an access system and a digital camera system that could monitor everything we now had and be shared by non-Sun employees and tenants who needed the proximity card only for access and badging," Peterson says.
Peterson says the process was made much easier for him by Diversified Protection Systems, a local dealer that installed an access system from Integrated Command Software Inc. (ICS), Houston, and cameras from Salient, Austin, Texas.
We wanted something we could control ourselves rather than a proprietary system run and managed by someone else," says Peterson.
Prior to moving the newspaper to the new office, the Sun employed security officers to control access to the building, but now, a range of access levels are automated, programmable and recorded. Peterson says that the integrated system has provided unprecedented accountability and has enabled his department to deploy people power more effectively.
"If someone is deciding whether to lease space from one of our buildings versus one of our competitors, we have the expertise of both an MIS and security team in place to advise them."
Peterson says that although American Nevada has not fully employed the features of the new system, it knows it is well prepared for the future.
"If a tenant down the road wants a Sunray system, we have a team in place. If someone is deciding whether to lease space from one of our buildings versus one of our competitors, we have the expertise of both an MIS and security team in place to advise them. You can't lose sight of the mission, which is protecting assets and providing a product that the brokers and leasing agents can sell to potential tenants," he says.
Because of the new system, employees have become more security-conscious. "You'd be surprised at the number of phone calls we get now from people with security concerns, whereas before they would leave doors propped open. Computers and laptops are not walking away anymore," Peterson points out.
About the author
Kate Henry is an Atlanta-based writer and regular contributor to iSecurity.