B2B security: At the new TidePoint Corp., physical security is a key component of the busi
B2B security: At the new TidePoint Corp., physical security is a key component of the business model

Sep 1, 2000 12:00 PM

Emerging electronic commerce companies require security solutions that go beyond the conventional security needs of brick-and-mortar businesses.

Imagine if a thief got into a business-to-business service provider's computer rooms and tapped into an account related to supply chain purchasing.

That's the kind of security issue faced by a new company called TidePoint Corp., Baltimore.

In the third quarter of this year, TidePoint will begin offering customers a service called Business Partner Infrastructure (BPI) solutions, which is full electronic integration of a company's operations with those of its vendors and customers. By opening a TidePoint account, a company can make electronic business transactions with its trading partners using TidePoint's secure on-line infrastructure.

TidePoint creates its own technical infrastructures to allow companies to purchase items electronically. Increasingly, business-to-business (B2B) service providers handle electronic banking, ordering, logistics and the rest of the services that businesses conventionally buy and sell.

In selling these services, TidePoint and others in the BPI business must sell the quality of their first lines of defense against unauthorized access to customer accounts. That first line of defense is physical security: access control, access-point alarms, and closed circuit television.

At TidePoint's headquarters, in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Mark Leighty, director of security, is working with DEI Inc., a Baltimore-based security systems designer and integrator, to create a state-of-the-art physical security system.

"The team from TidePoint really understands what it wants to do to protect the building," says Ralph Lamar, senior project engineer with DEI. "The team asked us to design a system for the three Baltimore sites, including the new headquarters building. The criteria included perimeter protection and interior protection, at various levels, using door alarms, area motion detection, closed circuit television (CCTV), and biometric access control."

Because physical security represents such an important element of TidePoint's business strategy, Leighty refuses to provide many details about the system.

The alarm and motion detection system use standard devices, according to Leighty. The unique elements of the systems involve the number of alarms and motion detectors and where they are located. That information is considered confidential.

In addition, CCTV cameras cover a large area of the company's data center and all access points into the building. Cameras also cover parking lots adjacent to the facilities, to protect employees coming and going from work.

Leighty and Lamar specified the latest Spectra II color cameras from Pelco, Clovis, Calif., to provide most of the coverage. The design calls for several high-resolution day-night cameras from Sanyo Fisher Co., Chatsworth, Calif. "These cameras provide a color image during the day," Lamar says. "But as the ambient light declines below a certain threshold, the cameras switch to high-resolution black-and-white."

Many of the interior and exterior cameras use Pelco pan-tilt-zoom mounts, but the design also calls for fixed mounts for cameras covering critical areas.

The video cabling for the installation runs through a dedicated conduit to enhance security.

Video cables from the cameras connect to a Pelco 9500 Matrix switcher. Video then flows from the switcher into DiSS digital video recorders. Both the switcher and the recorders are located in a secure telecommunications room. "The digital recorders also act as 16-channel multiplexers, and eliminate the cost of separate multiplexers," says Lamar.

Switcher control consoles located at guard stations give security officers control over cameras in specific areas of the facilities.

At the headquarters, a bank of high-resolution 20-inch Pelco color monitors displays video in the security operations center.

A significant feature of the CCTV system is the DiSS digital video recorders. The recorders plug into a local TCP/IP port, providing individuals with a password and URL with access to camera video by way of an Internet browser and a DiSS software called Net Agent. The Internet browser allows for access of a particular video camera from anywhere in the world. The system is designed to only view video.

The DiSS video recording system also simplifies video storage. "We're looking at a system that may enable us to save daily video on a CD," Leighty says. "If we can work this out, it will give us semi-permanent storage for about a dollar a day."

Biometric access control

To control access to the facility, Leighty and DEI selected a biometric system manufactured by Recognition Systems Inc., Campbell, Calif.

"We chose HandKey II readers," says Jeffrey Stroh, regional sales manager for DEI. "It's a decentralized system, so if you lose communications with the reader, it continues to work offline and you don't lose security. When the communications system comes back on line, the system automatically updates any transactions that occurred."

An additional communication feature of the HandKey system appealed to Leighty: "We didn't want to deploy yet another network to support the access control system," he says. "These readers plug directly into an ethernet line, using TCP/IP. In our facility build-out, we engineered these connections at all the doors."

The technology identifies people by the size and shape - the geometry - of their hands.

At TidePoint, new employees enroll in the system in the human resources department. The process involves setting a designated reader to an enrollment mode, inputting the employee's Personal Identification Number (PIN), and recording the hand geometry. "Then you simply download the data, and the enrollment is activated across the system," Leighty says. "The information goes to the readers and to the administrative system, which provides a backup that allows us to download a pristine copy should the data in the readers get corrupted."

"It is possible to store hand geometry in each reader because the geometrical data exists as a mathematical description and not an image, which would create intensive storage needs," says Leighty.

Hand geometry systems address one of the vexing problems characteristic of card-based access control. Cards unlock doors. Cards may be lost. And a person who finds a card that belongs to someone else may be able to gain access to a controlled facility.

A biometric access control system grants access by physically identifying one or another individual features.

"It's also more convenient for employees," notes Leighty. "They don't have to remember to carry the ID card, and they don't have to fumble for the card when they approach the door."

While readers for a hand recognition system cost more than mag-stripe or prox-card readers, other savings tend to equalize the price differential, according to Leighty. "We use a relatively simple photo-ID badging system that is easy to maintain," he says. "In addition, we don't have to maintain swipe readers or replace expensive multipurpose photo-ID cards."

Finally, the system provides the high level of security required by today's business-to-business service providers. "In my experience, the TidePoint facility will be one of the most secure buildings anywhere in the Baltimore region," says Stroh.

While biometric hand-readers provide a host of benefits, hand-reader systems cannot overcome a problem typical of all access control systems not equipped with revolving doors or man-traps: piggybacking.

As a result, during business hours, employees and visitors to TidePoint will use one primary door, monitored by a security officer who will check photo identification badges and provide visitor badges for authorized non-employees.

Because the badges do not function as part of the Recognition Systems access control system, TidePoint opted for stand-alone badging system supplied by DataCard Corp., Minnetonka, Minn. The system includes a digital camera, PC, and image data base software.

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