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Key Control Lessons We Can Learn From Higher Education Institutions

Security breaches due to improperly secured keys have been a recent trend among universities and colleges. Here are a few incidents that could have been prevented with electronic key control, as well as the lessons we can learn from them.

Know When Keys Go Missing

The University of Southern Maine was forced to increase its security measures after a security breach that could have placed millions of dollars of personal property as well as confidential records at risk. According to university officials, someone broke into a parked university van and stole a set of keys that gave the burglar access to between 40 and 50 campus buildings.

What can you do to avoid a similar situation on your campus? Set up email and text alerts to notify you when a key has been checked out longer than the allotted time. In addition to limiting the time an employee can have a key checked out, email and text alerts can notify you of missing or overdue keys. The alert will specify which key is missing and which employee last checked it out. Electronic key control will not only keep your keys safe, but it will keep authorized users accountable for returning keys, which reduces the chance of lost keys.

Enforce Employee Accountability

The former University of Central Arkansas (UCA) chief of staff was sentenced to prison after he provided his copy of a school master key to a then student, who used it to steal tests from professors' offices. 

This case is a perfect example of why it’s vital to hold your employees accountable for how they use the keys in their possession. Without certain key control procedures, it’s difficult to track key activity, including who had keys last. To avoid high replacement costs, strengthen security with an automated key control system by setting up access levels for your employees. This way, administrators are able to set specific permissions for their employees. By limiting your employee’s access to certain keys, you greatly reduce the chance of key theft and enforce employee accountability.

Prevent Repeated Security Breaches

Eastern Michigan University (EMU) had to rekey every room in one of its residence halls after the master key was stolen. This wasn't the first time EMU had had an issue with key security. A similar issue arose after a set of master keys to the entire campus was taken from a cart left unattended by a subcontractor working for the university. The university rekeyed interior and exterior locks in dorms and exterior locks to other buildings. Faculty members filed a grievance, reporting that the university was slow to respond.

In order to prevent repeated breaches, it’s important to have an electronic key control system in place. To access a key, a user must log in with a password and/or fingerprint. The name of the user who checked out the key is electronically stored along with the date and time the key was taken. As mentioned above, you can also set up email or text alerts to notify you if a key is overdue so you can address a security breach promptly.

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