Thursday, May 29, 2014

Asset Management: When You Have to Secure More Than Keys

actors portraying FBI agents
“The asset has been secured.” You may have heard an FBI agent drop this line in your favorite crime drama after they lock down a person or item important to national security.  

When a character in a hit series mentions an "asset," they could be referring to anything from a top-secret file to a lethal weapon. Depending on what industry you work in, this could be the case for your business as well. As a manager, you may need to secure not only keys but assets in a variety of forms. 

Let's look at a couple industries that use electronic key management systems to secure assets other than keys.

Law Enforcement Agencies 

Along with managing key access, police departments and correctional facilities are tasked with securing assets such as firearms, tasers and other highly sensitive weapons. If any of these items were to fall into the wrong hands, it could open the department up to major liability.

An electronic asset management system with individual tamper-proof lockers and features, such as a biometric fingerprint reader, to prevent unauthorized users from accessing assets, provides more security and accountability than a traditional storage area and allows law enforcement agencies to store larger items.

Military Facilities

soldier with radio
Similar to law enforcement agencies, in addition to securing keys and the areas they unlock, military facilities have highly sensitive weapons and information to keep secure. 

An electronic key and asset management system with lockers featuring all steel construction enables these types of facilities to safeguard larger items such as handheld radio equipment, transmitters and locators behind a passcode, fingerprint and/or proximity card.

High-security electronic key control systems with the flexibility to store items beyond just keys increase accountability, security and efficiency for a variety of businesses.

Find out more about the features of electronic key control systems here

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Majority of Phoenix Fire Department's Keys Go Missing: 9,000 Businesses at Risk

Fire truck Keys don’t always go missing because they were stolen by an employee or common thief. Sometimes, you and your staff just misplace them (which still creates a security breach).

Take the Phoenix Fire Department for example. It originally made 1,350 copies of master keys that open more than 9,000 business’s lock boxes throughout the city. The fire department uses these keys to enter buildings in the event of an after-hours emergency.

The bad news is, after 15 years, 63 percent of those keys have gone missing. No one stole them. They were simply misplaced. Personnel failed to return keys when they retired or quit, the department sold ladder trucks and engines with the keys still inside, etc. Long story short — the city is paying $50,000 to re-key all 9,000 of the lock boxes.

Remember, the security of your business is only as good as the controls you put in place to safeguard your keys. If you don’t properly secure keys, it’s not only dangerous for your staff and customers, but it’s costly to go back and fix these issues after the fact.

To prevent keys from slipping through the cracks, consider installing an electronic key control system. With an automatic key system:
  • Users must provide a form of authorization such as a password or fingerprint before they can remove a key, giving you a real-time, verifiable trail of key activity.
  • If a key isn't returned within a specific time frame, the system will send an alert directly to the administrator by text or email. You can see who last checked out a key and what time it was accessed.
  • The system houses the keys in a single location, so there is no more guessing where specific keys are located.
Overall, the system tracks who checks out a key and when, providing accountability where previously there was none. Read another true story of key management issues in a public safety department here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

What Are The Benefits of Electronic Key Control?

With the progression of technology, businesses have begun automating processes for various reasons, including improving efficiency to increase profits. Automated key control provides certain benefits that you just don't get using pegboards or lock boxes. However, there are still some companies that haven't jumped on the automation wave. If you happen to be one of the holdouts, here are four benefits to electronic key control that just may change your mind.

Increased Accountability

KeyTrak Fingerprint Scanner
Electronic key management eliminates the guesswork of who checked out a key, when they checked it out and if they returned it. With an electronic system, employees must enter a valid password, swipe a proximity card and/or scan their fingerprint to gain access to keys. The likelihood of human error is significantly reduced, as an audit trail is created when a key is removed, noting who removed the key, the date and time the key was taken and when or if the key was returned.



 More Time

Stop watchIt's a common misconception that electronic key control systems are complicated and take too long to operate. This assumption could not be more wrong. On average, an electronic system is about twice as fast (or faster) than a manual process. It would take anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes to locate and remove a key from a pegboard or lockbox and manually update a log sheet. Conversely, it would only take 15 to 60 seconds to perform the same transaction with an electronic system.

Tighter Security

white lock on red background
Added security is by far the biggest benefit of electronic key management.When using a manual key control method, there's no way to automatically verify if an employee has the authorization to check out certain keys. An electronic system, on the other hand, can assign different access levels. With this added level of security, users can only obtain keys for which they have authorization. In addition to preventing employees from accessing keys outside of their access level, electronic key management systems can also notify you of missing or overdue keys by sending a text message or email.


 Reduced Liability

banging gavelIn addition to providing accountability, increasing security and saving time, an electronic key management system can also reduce liability. Employing a secure system decreases the likelihood of theft or more horrific crimes for which your business could held liable. Consider this:
  • An apartment complex was found liable in the death of a former tenant after the handyman used a master key to enter the tenant's apartment and murder her, resulting in a $10.8 million verdict.
  • The Phoenix Fire Department lost 850 master keys that access about 9,000 business throughout the city, resulting in $50,000 in rekeying costs.
In both cases, an electronic key control system would have not only tracked who checked out keys but also made sure that users were authorized for certain keys.

To see the benefits of electronic key management in action, check out our case studies.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Multifamily Key Control: The Way You Collect Data Is Key

Key control is important for all businesses — especially those in the multifamily industry.

The threat of an employee stealing and using tenant keys to commit burglary is real. An apartment complex in Boston realized this when it experienced a series of burglaries where there was no sign of forced entry, indicating someone had used keys to access the units. It's essential for you, as a property management professional, to tightly secure keys and hold staff accountable by recording key transactions.

The first decision you have to make is to decide if you'll use a key control method that collects data manually or one that captures data automatically.

What's the Difference?

Manual Data Collection

keys being handed to person in front of apartmentsManual data collection relies on users to record information such as key tag numbers, dates, times, and reasons for checking out keys or to swipe a key tag through a reader after removing it from a lockbox.

This method of data collection is most often used with key control methods such as pegboards or with electronic key boxes that don't automatically record user transactions when the key is removed or returned.

Automatic Data Collection

Automatic data collection doesn't require users to remember to manually enter any transaction details. Instead, information is collected automatically the instant a key is removed from the key control system so users don't have to manually write it down, enter it into a spreadsheet, or scan a key tag.

Automated key control systems record user information, date, time, and reasons for checking out a key (e.g., during an apartment showing or maintenance call). Another perk of this type of data collection is that it provides a 100 percent verifiable audit trail of the information, so it enforces employee accountability.

Which Method Is More Secure?

Recording key control data accurately is crucial for protecting yourself from liability. So will a manual or automatic data capture method do a better job of reducing your risk?

Manual Data Collection

In a perfect world, your staff would always take the time to accurately record when they check out or return keys. Unfortunately, human error is inevitable (even well-meaning, trustworthy employees make mistakes). In the event that one of your employees decides to use a key for a prohibited activity, manual data collection leaves your key control log vulnerable to manipulation.

A key can be taken from a lockbox or pegboard, duplicated and returned within a matter of minutes. If a person removes a key without signing it out and subsequently returns it before anyone notices it's missing, the key security for the unit to which the key belongs has been compromised. Even if you use computerized lockboxes that require users to enter a PIN or swipe a card, keep in mind that transaction details won't be recorded unless the user scans the key tag or enters the key tag number into the system.

Without any recorded key transaction details, the security breach will likely go unreported until a resident or their property is harmed. Because property management is responsible for following key control best practices to protect residents, manual data collection can create liability risks for the property.

Automatic Data Collection 

Automatic data collection reduces the risk of inaccurate records because users aren't required to manually input information or scan a key tag. By relying on automatic data collection, you'll be able to easily keep a real-time verifiable audit trail of which users checked out or returned keys along with the date, time, and reason they did so. Data can't be forged or altered by users, so you'll automatically have tighter and more accurate key security than if you were using a manual process.

In addition, electronic key control systems that rely on automatic data collection authenticates users by having them scan a fingerprint, enter a unique password, scan a key card, or a combination of these methods. Some systems also allow you to create access levels for authorized users. In the event that a user attempts to remove a key they're not authorized to use, the system can instantly notify you by text or email.

We think the choice is pretty clear for property management professionals: Automatic data collection methods are more secure. For more tips on how to protect your property, check out our whitepaper "Six Common Key Control Mistakes Property Owners Make."

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Key Control Shouldn't Be Like a Zoo

Over the years, several zoo key control mishaps have made headlines. During the late '90s, Nala the lioness escaped from a Florida zoo while handlers were cleaning her cage. Back in the '30s, almost 200 Rhesus monkeys took over Long Island after their enclosure was left open one night. In China, a zookeeper was arrested after he failed to lock the gate to the tiger area, resulting in the death of a visitor.

In situations like these, key control systems can provide vital intelligence about what goes on behind the scenes at your zoo. Below are three benefits to tracking zoo keys electronically.

Detailed Reports Provide an Inside Look at Your Key Activity

gorilla plotting his escape from a zooAutomated key management systems generate reports sorted by employee, time, date and key, which helps your zoo keep exhibit keys organized while also providing granular information about employees' activities.

Each key has a unique ID within the system, so you'll be able to see if employees are accessing enclosures when they shouldn't be, as in the case of a Cumbria zookeeper who was mauled after she entered a tiger enclosure without permission.

Access Levels Provide Employee Accountability

Though zookeepers are expected to know how to care for all animals, most zookeepers prefer to stick with one animal throughout their careers. For this reason, not all zookeepers need access to every key, but if all exhibit keys are kept in a single cabinet without varying levels of security, any employee can take any key. 

A key system that has a total lockdown feature can prevent keys from falling into the wrong zookeeper's hands. When provided with the appropriate password, fingerprint or security card, the system will unlock only the applicable keys. Access levels are especially helpful for senior-level zookeepers who manage a team of keepers that access different exhibits. If you require a fingerprint to access multiple keys, the system will only unlock keys for the designated employees.

You Have a Starting Point for Tracking Down Escaped Animals

In the event that a breakout occurs, an automated key control system can show you the exact moment a key is taken and who took it, so you can speak with the person who checked out the keys to get more details about what happened during that time.

For example, if Jim accesses the gorilla cage key at 2:55 p.m. and Susan notices at 3:15 p.m. that the gorilla has escaped through the unlocked cage door, she'll know to ask Jim if he noticed anything unusual when he was at the gorilla enclosure.

Once you start tracking keys electronically, you'll be able to identify weaknesses in key management processes to help you make sure your zoo doesn't end up in the headlines.