Security Procedures for Access Control Systems

30 November 2023

In an increasingly interconnected and digital world, security is paramount. Access control systems have become an integral part of maintaining the safety and integrity of physical spaces, whether it’s an office building, factory, or research facility.

To ensure the effectiveness of these systems, it is crucial to establish well-defined security pass procedures. This article explores the various aspects of implementing and managing security pass procedures for an access control system, providing a comprehensive overview of best practices and considerations.

Access Control System Overview

Before diving into the security pass procedures, let’s first understand what an access control system is and its components. An access control system is a technology-driven solution that restricts access to specific areas, resources, or data based on user permissions. The key components of an access control system typically include:

Credentials: Credentials are the means by which users identify themselves to the system. These can be in the form of access cards, key fobs, biometric data (such as fingerprints or facial recognition), or PINs (Personal Identification Numbers).

Card Readers: Card readers are devices that read the user’s credentials and communicate with the control panel to grant or deny access.

Control Panel: The control panel is the central processing unit of the access control system. It manages the data from card readers, verifies credentials, and controls access to secured areas.

Database: A database stores user information, access permissions, and other relevant data.

Electric Locks: Electric locks or magnetic locks are mechanisms that secure doors and gates. They can be controlled by the access control system to grant or restrict access.

Establishing Security Pass Procedures

Creating a security pass procedure is crucial for maintaining the safety and integrity of a facility. The exact steps can vary depending on the organisation, industry, and specific security needs, but here is a general outline that you can adapt to your specific requirements:

Issuing Credentials

Registration: The first step in security pass procedures is to register individuals into the system. This involves collecting their personal information and verifying their identity.

Credential Types: Determine the type of credential to be issued. Common options include proximity cards, smart cards, key fobs, or biometric data.

Authentication: Implement a stringent authentication process during credential issuance to prevent unauthorised access.

Access Permissions

Role-Based Access: Assign access permissions based on roles or job responsibilities. Only grant access to areas necessary for an individual’s work.

Temporary Access: Set time-limited permissions for contractors, visitors, or employees on temporary assignments.

Revocation: Regularly review and update access permissions. Immediately revoke access for terminated employees or personnel with changed roles.

Secure Data Management

In an access control system, a central database records the individual user records, credentials and events. It is vital to ensure that good database management practices are in place.

Database Security: Protect the access control system’s database with encryption and robust access controls to prevent unauthorised data breaches.

Backup and Recovery: Implement a reliable backup and data recovery plan to ensure system functionality in case of data loss.

Implementation and Maintenance

The implementation and maintenance of an access control system involve a series of steps and ongoing activities to ensure that the system operates effectively and securely. Access control systems are designed to regulate and manage access to physical or digital resources within an organisation.

System Configuration: Install and configure access control hardware and software. Set up user accounts and define access levels and permissions.

Integration with Other Systems: Integrate the access control system with other security systems like surveillance cameras and alarm systems.

Testing: Conduct thorough testing to ensure the system functions as expected and verify that access levels are correctly configured.

Documentation: Document the system configuration, user roles, and any other relevant information. Create an emergency response plan in case of system failure.

Card Reader Placement

Strategic Locations: Place card readers at strategic access points to ensure comprehensive coverage.

Redundancy: Implement redundancy in case of device failure, allowing alternative methods for authentication and access.

Monitoring and Logging

Real-Time Monitoring: Continuously monitor system activity to detect suspicious or unauthorised access attempts. Have a response plan in place for security incidents, such as unauthorised access.

Logging: Maintain detailed access logs for accountability and auditing purposes.

Software and Firmware Updates and Maintenance

Regular Updates: Stay current with access control system software updates, security patches and firmware updates to address vulnerabilities.

Maintenance Schedule: Establish a routine maintenance schedule to keep the hardware and software in optimal condition.

Routine Maintenance

Policy Review: Periodically review and update access control policies based on changes in the organisation’s structure or security requirements.

Update User Information: Regularly update user information, especially in organisations with a high turnover rate. Disable or remove accounts for employees who no longer need access.

Physical Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain physical access control components, such as card readers and biometric devices.

Regular Audits: Conduct regular audits of user access rights and permissions. Ensure that access levels are aligned with job roles.

Training and Education

Training and education play a pivotal role in the effectiveness of access control systems, ensuring that users comprehend the significance of security measures and are well-versed in system functionalities. Through training, users gain an understanding of access control policies and compliance requirements, reducing the likelihood of security risks and promoting responsible user behaviour. Educated users are more adept at recognising and responding to security incidents, contributing to efficient incident resolution.

User Training

Credential Usage: Train users on how to properly use their credentials, understand the importance of keeping them secure and educate them about security policies and procedures.

Emergency Procedures: Educate users on how to respond to emergency situations, such as lockouts or security breaches.

Security Awareness

Phishing and Social Engineering: Train users to recognise and report phishing attempts and social engineering tactics that could compromise security.

Reporting Incidents: Establish clear procedures for users to report lost or stolen credentials, security breaches, or suspicious activities.

Physical Security

Serving as the foundational layer that complements electronic measures physical security prevents unauthorised access through measures like locked doors and gates. This can also include protecting centralised servers and data centres storing sensitive information. Physical security also plays a crucial role in preventing tailgating and piggybacking, mitigating the risks of insider threats, and deterring criminal activity through visible deterrents such as security guards and surveillance cameras. Furthermore, it ensures the continuity of operations during emergencies and environmental hazards, contributing to compliance with industry standards and regulations. The integration of physical security measures with access control systems creates a robust security posture, safeguarding assets, information, and the overall integrity of security operations.

Secure Entry Points

Tamper-Proof Hardware: Use tamper-proof and durable hardware for card readers, control panels, and electric locks.

Intrusion Detection: Implement intrusion detection systems to alert security personnel to unauthorised attempts to access secure areas.

Video Surveillance

CCTV Cameras: Complement the access control system with a comprehensive CCTV camera network to monitor and record activities at access points.

Integration: Integrate video surveillance and access control to provide a more complete picture of security events.

Compliance and Regulations

Adherence to industry-specific and government-mandated regulations ensures that organisations meet legal requirements, avoiding potential legal consequences and fines. Compliance frameworks often dictate the minimum security standards and protocols necessary for protecting sensitive information and maintaining data privacy. Additionally, compliance helps build trust with customers, partners, and stakeholders by demonstrating a commitment to safeguarding data and maintaining a secure environment. Moreover, compliance standards provide a structured framework for implementing access control measures, guiding organisations in the development of robust security policies and procedures. This alignment with the regulatory requirements not only mitigates the risk of data breaches but also helps organisations stay ahead of emerging security threats.

Legal Requirements

Data Privacy: Ensure compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) when handling user data.

Industry-Specific Regulations: Be aware of industry-specific regulations that may impose additional security requirements, such as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).

Auditing and Reporting

Regular Audits: Conduct periodic security audits to ensure compliance with regulations and internal policies.

Reporting: Generate and maintain reports that can be provided to auditors or regulatory authorities when required.

Emergency Response

Emergency response with access control is a critical aspect of overall security planning. Access control systems can be instrumental in managing and mitigating risks during emergency situations. By integrating access control into emergency response plans, organisations can enhance the overall safety and security of their facilities. The ability to control and monitor access during emergencies is crucial for protecting lives, assets, and sensitive information. It’s important for organisations to regularly review and update their emergency response protocols to ensure they align with best practices and evolving security needs.

Here’s how access control is often integrated into emergency response protocols:

Lockdown Procedures: Access control systems can initiate lockdown procedures, restricting or denying access to certain areas during emergencies. This can be triggered manually or automatically in response to specific events, such as a security threat or a natural disaster.

Dynamic Access Control: Access control systems can be programmed to dynamically adjust access permissions based on the nature of the emergency. For example, certain doors might be locked, and others might be set to allow free egress to ensure the safety of building occupants.

Integration with Alarms and Sensors: Access control systems often integrate with alarm systems and sensors. In an emergency, these sensors can trigger the access control system to respond, such as unlocking emergency exits or securing specific areas.

Emergency Evacuation Routes: Access control can be used to guide people along designated emergency evacuation routes. This might involve unlocking specific doors or gates to facilitate a safe and efficient evacuation.

Identification and Verification: Access control systems, especially those utilising biometrics or smart cards, help in accurately identifying individuals during emergencies. This ensures that only authorised personnel, such as first responders or designated emergency teams, have access to critical areas.

Remote Access Control Management: In some emergencies, it might be necessary to remotely manage access control. Security personnel can use remote access to adjust access permissions or unlock/lock doors from a safe location.

Post-Emergency Access Review: After an emergency, access control logs can be reviewed to understand who entered or exited specific areas during the crisis. This information can be valuable for investigations or refining emergency response procedures.

Regular Emergency Drills: Conducting regular emergency drills that involve testing access control measures ensures that personnel are familiar with the procedures and that the system functions as intended during high-stress situations.

Backup and Recovery: Implement regular backups of access control system configurations. Have a recovery plan in case of system failures or data loss.


Security pass procedures are an essential component of an effective access control system. By following the best practices outlined in this article, organisations can establish a robust security framework that safeguards their assets, personnel, and sensitive data. Regular maintenance, training, and compliance with legal requirements are key to maintaining the integrity and reliability of an access control system. Security should remain a top priority in an ever-evolving threat landscape, and a well-implemented security pass procedure is a crucial step in achieving that goal. Remember to regularly review and update the procedure to adapt to changes in technology, personnel, or security threats.