Friday, December 19, 2014

Electronic Key Control: What Property Owners Should Look For — Part 1

Multifamily vacancy rates are starting to rise for the first time since 2009. To maintain a competitive edge, you as a property owner or manager need to meet tenants’ priorities to keep your occupancy rates up.

Keys laying on top of blueprintAccording to a survey by, safety is one of renters' top considerations when making a rental decision. That’s where electronic key control comes in. Regulating the use of unit keys can help make tenants feel safe on your property — especially when you implement other security precautions, such as good lighting in parking lots and stairwells, locks on windows and deadbolts on doors.

To get the most value from your key control system investment, there are a few things you need to look for, which we'll discuss in this two-part series. We'll start with two features that can make or break the effectiveness of a key control system.

Data Collection Practices

Green key icon
In addition to protecting keys and assets by physically securing keys, electronic key control systems help keep employees accountable and reduce your property's liability risks by creating a verifiable audit trail of key activity. 

To maintain the integrity of system records, it’s important to make sure a potential key control system uses passive data collection methods versus active ones. Passive data collection methods capture transaction information as soon as a key is removed, but active data collection methods require users to manually record transaction details or initiate the data capture by a specific action such as scanning a key tag.
You should also find out whether data is stored locally on the system, on the vendor’s server or with another third party. If the data is stored off-site, ask if there are any data storage fees, and if so, how the fees are determined. If data is not stored directly on the system, know how you will access your data in the event that you lose Internet access.

Remote Management

Hand entering information on login screen 
If you need to centralize key management practices among multiple properties, one of the first things you should look for in a key control system is a remote management feature that allows you to access multiple systems by logging into an online portal. 

From there, you should be able to run reports for each property and perform actions such as setting up users or entering asset data.

To find out what else you should look for in a multifamily key control system, be on the lookout for the next post in our series.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Top Four Most Outrageous Key Control Security Breaches

Money, time, resources and reputations are all at stake when a business falls victim to theft. Employee theft alone costs businesses about $40 billion each year. These security breaches impact companies by making employees feel unsafe and disrupting usual business activity. Let’s take a look back at some of  the craziest security breaches that could have been prevented with a dose of proper key control.

Public Works Official Steals $460,000 in Quarters

A public works inspector stole 1.8 million individual quarters from a parking meter coin room (that he should not have had access to) over the course of two years by using his city-issued master key. Electronic key management systems offer access levels, so you can set specific permissions for employees. By limiting the number of employees who can access certain keys, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of internal theft, preventing mis-issue of the wrong key type.

Keys on key ringsPhoenix Fire Department Can’t Account for 850 keys

The Phoenix Fire Department reported the loss of hundreds of keys that provided firefighters access to buildings all over the city. Not only did the fire department slack on its own security, but it also put many businesses and apartment complexes at risk of theft. With electronic key management, this fire department could have tightly secured these important keys to keep the city safe.

Former Tiffany and Co. Executive Steals Over $1.3 million in Jewelry

As part of her job the vice president of product development at Tiffany and Co. was able to check out pieces of jewelry to show to potential manufacturers. After she left her job, the world-renowned jewelry store found that over 100 pieces of the jewelry she checked out were never checked back in. When it comes to securing highly expensive inventory, keeping a verifiable record is crucial to accurately track key activity.

Coca-Cola Supervisor Loots Vending Machines

Even a huge corporation such as Coca-Cola is vulnerable to internal theft. A former supervisor took a set of master keys and stole over $8,000 from company vending machines. If this bottling company had employed an electronic key control system, the ex-supervisor wouldn’t have access to the keys after leaving the job. In addition, if any unauthorized access was attempted, a manager would immediately be notified by email or text message with information about the incident.

These are a few of the most extreme examples of why key control is necessary for all businesses. Learn more benefits of electronic key control here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

$250,000 Cash Stolen From Police Property Room

Cash in paper bag
After a two-year investigation, a police department in Plantation, FL is dealing with the theft of nearly $225,000 in cash.

The money had been stored in the department’s property room, where confiscated assets are kept. Unfortunately, the department’s storage methods consisted of stashing the cash in paper bags within a file cabinet. The cabinet was routinely kept locked as of 2011, but the keys were stored in an unlocked box.

The theft was discovered when a man recently released from prison came back to retrieve his money and the department couldn’t find the money within the property room, which was in disarray and lacking adequate records for asset tracking.

Eventually, the stash of cash was found, but several of the paper bags were either slashed open or missing altogether. The theft is thought to be an inside job, but without an adequate audit trail and system of checks and balances, the department is unable to prosecute the suspect.

The police department has taken measures to prevent future thefts by implementing security measures such as around-the-clock security cameras, impromptu property room searches and a policy prohibiting employees being alone in the room.

Law enforcement agencies can learn from the Plantation Police Department’s experience by auditing their security policies, especially asset management and key control procedures. For example, departments responsible for storing valuable confiscated assets can use a high-security electronic key control system with secure lockers to keep items locked up. Rather than keeping locker keys in unsecured boxes, they can be physically locked down in a secure panel that only permits authorized users to remove them.

Using a system with a motion-activated camera, audit trail and biometric fingerprint authentication methods can help create an automatic audit trail that allows key usage to be traced to a specific employee.

To read more about using electronic key control systems for asset management, check out our post “Asset Management: When You Have to Secure More Than Keys.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Are You Adequately Securing Your Dealership's Keys?

So you've purchased and installed an electronic key management system at your dealership. That's all you have to do to secure your keys, right? Wrong. Your system will only serve its purpose (protecting your keys and the cars on your lot) if you use it properly.

We have outlined below some common mistakes that dealership owners make (and how to fix them) when employing electronic key management systems.

Not Keeping All Keys in the System

keys with "NO" symbol
Whether it's the spare key kept with the owner's manual or valet keys, some dealership owners choose to keep some of their keys out of electronic management systems but secure others inside of it. Some cite limited space in their systems (though some electronic systems can hold up to 5,760 keys) as the reason for not securing every key tightly. Convenience is another common reason, although there is nothing convenient about paying up to tens of thousands of dollars in rekeying costs if keys are stolen from your dealership.

Make it a best practice to fill your electronic key management system with every key that unlocks a car on your lot.

Not Monitoring the Area Where Your System is Kept

Once you have secured all of your dealership's keys in your electronic management system, you need to find a secure area for the system itself. Just like banks don't keep their vaults unmonitored, you shouldn't keep your system in an unmonitored area. Placing it in a back room or an off-site location reduces user accountability.

Place the system where there is little customer traffic but where it is accessible to authorized users, such as a manager's office.

Not Setting up Authorization Levels

authorized personnel signAfter putting all of your keys in an electronic management system and keeping the system in a monitored area, you may think you're finished as far as secure key control. If all employees have authorization to check out any key, you're opening yourself up to unnecessary liability risks. Unfortunately, there's also the possibility of internal theft (which costs dealerships nine dollars per employee per day) to consider.

Set up varying levels of authorization to lessen the chances of internal theft. Employees on the sales floor, in the service department and other areas should only be authorized to check out keys relative to their duties and responsibilities.

What are you doing to make sure that you are using your electronic key management system correctly? Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Casino Key Control: Stacking the Odds in Favor of Key and Asset Security

The glitz, glamour and excitement that surround casinos can sometimes distract from what is going on behind the scenes. A complex system involving casinos' most precious assets and the keys that secure them has evolved over the years in an attempt to deter criminals.

Poker chips
Key control systems aid in preventing theft by not only keeping assets out of the grasp of unauthorized individuals, but also keeping them from gaining access to the keys protecting those items. Here are a few ways electronic key control systems can keep your keys and assets secure.

Key Security

You most likely already know the importance of locking up your cash and chips in secure vaults. However, if the keys that unlock the vaults aren't also secure, your items are still susceptible to theft. An electronic key control system can help prevent keys from falling into the wrong hands.

Select a key control system that allows you to set up additional barriers such as logging in with a password, proximity card or fingerprint when users want to access a key. Once you set these additional security measures, key access will be denied without the proper credentials.

You should also make sure you select a key control system with an active total lockdown feature to prevent any other key from being taken, even accidentally. Only the requested key will unlock and all other keys will stay locked in place, so you can be confident that your casino's keys are secure.

Asset Security

Casinos must protect a number of important assets along with keys. For instance, guards' firearms should be locked away when not being worn. Laptops and smartphones may also need to be secured if they contain proprietary company data.

To best protect your non-key assets, look for a key control system that provides alternative lockdown storage such as steel lockers. Not only will these tamper-resistant lockers prevent important assets from being taken, but employees' access can be restricted to just the lockers for which they've been authorized. By limiting access to only the people who need certain items, you greatly reduce the chances of theft.

Using a system that secures both your assets and keys will help ensure robbers don't disrupt your operations. To learn more about the benefits of electronic key control, check out this post.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Solve Key Management Issues for High-Rise Office Spaces

High-rise office buildings
High-rise office space is popular because it’s a convenient way to accommodate more employees on less acreage. However, managing high-rise buildings is also high-stress, particularly concerning key control. More space equals more people, more keys and more security issues.

Automating key management processes can help bring order to what would otherwise be organizational chaos. Here are three ways electronic key control systems can help make managing high-rise building keys safer and more efficient.

Track High Volume of Keys

It’s only logical that the more rooms there are, the more keys there will be: keys for company suites, individual offices, cubicles, file cabinets, storage closets, mechanical rooms, etc.

To centralize key management, you can install electronic key control systems in multiple locations throughout the building and network the systems. Using remote web-based key control software, administrators can then access each key control system from a central location to perform duties such as setting up users, entering asset data or running network reports regarding key activity on all systems combined.

Manage Key Access for Multiple Employees

Managing a high volume of keys becomes more complicated when you throw in a large number of employees with different key usage needs.

Not all staff members need — or should have — full access to all building keys. For example, the customer service manager doesn’t need a key to the CEO’s office, and an accountant doesn’t need access to the custodial room. Not all keys have a dedicated use, though. Multiple employees might have access to a particular key (e.g., to a conference room), which could lead to scheduling conflicts and key tracking issues.

You also have to consider not only who has access to certain keys, but when and for how long. Some staff members might be issued a key on a permanent basis (e.g., their office key), while others only need a key (e.g., the conference room key) for a specific time frame. In addition, employees might have permission to check out a certain key only at specific times, such as while they’re on the clock or during business hours.

With so many access types and levels, manual key control is cumbersome and susceptible to errors. Electronic key control allows you to predefine access levels and grant or deny access to keys depending on the person’s user profile. Plus, employees can reserve shared-use keys ahead of time, preventing scheduling issues.

Reduce Security and Liability Risks

High-rise buildings present more opportunities for security breaches. For instance, with so many people working in the same building, it’s easier for unauthorized people to tailgate into the facility without being noticed, because employees are used to seeing unfamiliar faces. This risk makes it especially important for employees in charge of specific keys to make sure they lock up private areas.

Of course, if someone doesn’t properly secure a key and an unauthorized person finds it, they can access secured areas, even if they’re locked.

To mitigate liability in situations such as these, you first need to control access to keys. Electronic key control systems provide an additional layer of security by producing a key usage audit trail. (Note that some key control systems do require manual steps to produce key control records; others will create an audit trail automatically.)

Having this information can help you trace security issues back to the employee who was responsible for the keys to any areas involved in a breach. In addition, if employees try to access a key they’re not authorized to have or don’t return a key on time, managers can be immediately notified by a text or email alert.

By using electronic key control systems to address high-rise key management challenges, you can keep unnecessary chaos at bay. To learn more, check out our post on automating key control logs.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tricks to Look out for This Halloween

Man holding gorilla maskIt's long been rumored that crime rates increase on Halloween. Some cities have stats to prove it, while others claim the link between Halloween and crime is a myth.

Either way, it's important to remember that crime does still happen on Halloween, so it’s you need to take measures to protect your business. Here are a couple of "tricks" to look out for on October 31.

Crimes in Costume

Kids aren't the only ones who like to dress up for Halloween. For some criminals, the holiday provides the perfect opportunity to disguise their identity by donning a costume without looking too conspicuous.

Several years ago in Cocoa, FL, masked burglars targeted more than 30 businesses during October and the surrounding months. The robbers' costume choices included gorillas, a skull and a ghost.

In Madison, WI, robbers donned "Scream" masks on four separate occasions for robberies committed over Halloween weekend in 2011.

And last Halloween, one crook brought the slasher series "Halloween" to life at a Seattle business when he put on a Michael Myers mask and violently forced an employee to empty the contents of a cash safe into a bag.

What to Do: To protect your business this Halloween, employ adequate physical security measures, such as securing the premises by locking every entryway that isn't used regularly, restricting access to nonpublic points of entry and storing keys in an electronic key control system. Also make sure you educate your employees on how to prepare for and respond to armed threats.

Vanishing Vehicles

Halloween is one of car thieves' favorite holidays, with more than 2,000 cars stolen on Halloween alone in 2012 (data for 2013 is not yet available). Between trick-or-treating and costume parties, Halloween presents plenty of distractions, which criminals use to their advantage.

At one house party in Pennsylvania, for example, a thief tracked down a partygoer's unattended car keys, located the vehicle in the home's driveway and drove off. In Athens, OH, a thief simply hopped into an idling car and drove off in it.

What to Do: Make sure your company's fleet vehicles are locked and, if possible, stored out of sight from the street. Store the keys securely in an electronic key control system that can alert you in case of a security breach.

If you have employees that are using company cars on a long-term basis, remind them of important vehicle safety tips, such as not leaving the car unattended while idling, keeping track of the keys and storing valuables in the glove box or trunk.

What tricks are you looking out for this Halloween? Let us know in the comments!