Security

Access Control: Breaking the Price vs Safety Paradigm

A secure access control system comes with a premium price tag. That’s the commonly shared ‘fact’ in the access control industry. Arguments to strengthen this belief are of course, easy to envisage. Robust hardware using premium materials and lots of clever security features must be expensive. Continuously tested software, able to withstand ever-increasing cyber security threats has to be paid for at some point. Then again in industry after industry, we see disruption. B2B markets for example, can sometimes be taken by surprise from an influx of ‘consumer grade’ products produced in far greater volumes, at lower costs and with a steep increase in performance. So, are there any signs forecasting such change in the access control industry? Not for a while it seems. At the DEFCON hacking conference this summer, the digital security assessment of consumer smart door locks was unveiled in two presentations. The authors showed the ridiculous ease with which 12 out […]

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A secure access control system comes with a premium price tag. That’s the commonly shared ‘fact’ in the access control industry. Arguments to strengthen this belief are of course, easy to envisage.

Robust hardware using premium materials and lots of clever security features must be expensive. Continuously tested software, able to withstand ever-increasing cyber security threats has to be paid for at some point.
Then again in industry after industry, we see disruption. B2B markets for example, can sometimes be taken by surprise from an influx of ‘consumer grade’ products produced in far greater volumes, at lower costs and with a steep increase in performance. So, are there any signs forecasting such change in the access control industry?

Not for a while it seems. At the DEFCON hacking conference this summer, the digital security assessment of consumer smart door locks was unveiled in two presentations. The authors showed the ridiculous ease with which 12 out of the 16 consumer smart door locks they tested could be hacked. Even more worrying was the lack of responsiveness of the different vendors. Apparently security is still only an afterthought even for door locks.

One of the startups seeking to change this is the Dutch company BOLD. ‘Digital security and burglar-proofing is at the heart of our mission’, says Toine Dingemans, co-founder and Lead Customer Development. The Bold Smart Cylinder Lock has the highest digital security rating in the industry (ISO LoA4). This is the same as using a bankcard in combination with a dedicated reader.

When taking security seriously from the start it’s possible to ‘break with the existing price vs security paradigm’ by applying proven ‘end-to-end’ hardware encryption technology. This means designing a dedicated crypto-chip into every lock and using special Hardware Security Modules (HSM) in the cloud.

Then again best-in-class digital security needs to be backed by robust hardware as one of the leading US consumer brands is now learning the hard way. Their smart lock did withstand the DEFCON cyber-attacks but is building an unfortunate reputation of being opened with a flat screw driver.

The Bold founders realized that the weakest part of any door lock is actually the key cylinder, which in Europe can easily be exchanged. Replacing the existing key cylinder for a burglar-proof smart version means an easy DIY security upgrade is possible.

Their smart cylinder lock uses a new construction that prevents the favorite methods burglars use to get into your home. ‘No more drilling, pulling or breaking the cylinder’, says Thom van Beek, Co-founder and Technology Lead at Bold.

The smart lock market is already growing at speed in North America and Europe has the latent potential to catch up quickly. ‘We are confident that if we can land this product in the consumer space at the right price (199 Euro for retail) and security level there’s plenty of opportunity to grow into the enterprise market. We are already getting a lot of attention from small and medium sized enterprises where managing keys is a real annoyance and a security issue’, says Toine.

Bold is currently running a crowfunding campaign to get the product into production.

Whether their strategy will work out as planned still has to be seen but they will certainly not be the last startup, to try and challenge the enterprise Access Control incumbents.

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