Importance Of Access Control


Two western companies were engaged in a Joint Venture (JV) with a significant local company in a Gulf state. The expatriate employees had offices opposite one another in the same corridor. Access to this was by key card but Asian staff who provided tea, coffee and soft drinks throughout working hours were not given cards but were let in at the start of business hours and released when work ended. Consequently, if a server wanted to go out for a smoke break he would do so through one of the emergency exits, propping the door open with a convenient rock as he had no other means of regaining entry. Despite this bad practice, the host company failed to install an alarm system that would have detected incorrect use of emergency exits and alerted staff when such abuse occurred. Clearly when doors are left propped open the possibility of illegal access increases. Luckily, this turned out not to be factor in the story which follows.

An expatriate employee of one of the concerned companies began to report several security related incidents pertaining to himself. At first, he complained that he was being closely observed by suspicious looking locals and then that he was regularly being followed by the same individuals in a high-powered SUV. As if this was insufficient, he then produced an anonymous letter containing threats to his life if he did not leave the country immediately. Inevitably, news of these incidents spread rapidly throughout the expatriate community and both companies decided to conduct a town hall meeting at which the individual claimed he had no idea why he had been targeted. Naturally, employees and dependants were unnerved by the story and his company decided to temporarily repatriate the individual who was to take extended leave, followed by a long career enhancing course.

Throughout the duration of the saga, the security consultants of the two companies conducted interviews with anyone who might have seen or heard anything related to the situation. They also sought and finally obtained security camera footage covering the time that the threatening letter was claimed to have been delivered. The local company management had been very reluctant to release these. The letter was supposed to have been pushed under the door of the individual’s office during the night; one of the cameras had a direct view of his office door, and no one was seen to have approached it during the time in question.

This story illustrates the historic value of security cameras in investigation and the importance of employing diligent security consultants. The concerned companies were thus able to allay the fears of their employees and dependents. Last heard, the alleged victim was said to be looking for alternative employment.

Further lessons may be drawn from the foregoing incidents as follows:

  • CCTV is of limited value if it is not manned 24/7. In this case it was not, and thus the value was purely historical.
  • If employees cannot be trusted with a key card, they should not be employed in the first place.  In addition, entry by key card or other electronic system provides an accurate record of Personnel on Board (POB) which is important for evacuation purposes in case of fire or other emergency. No key card, no record!
  • Alarm systems should always be installed on emergency exits, otherwise they are open to misuse. If employees are able to leave the building through emergency exits they will not be accounted for in an emergency.
  • Upon entry to the building employees passed through a lobby manned by a receptionist, before they gained access to the rest of the building through use of their key cards. As the receptionist often had other duties to perform, he/she was not always in a position to monitor access to the building which might allow multiple personnel to gain access with the same card (tailgating).
  • It also came to light that the parent company had a poor record when it came to termination of employees or their retirement/resignation. In some cases, key cards had not been withdrawn when employees left, which meant a number could retain access not only to the building but also to the company’s IT systems.
  • The incident highlights the vigilance of the two security consultants in bringing it to a satisfactory close. We at Merletti Gonzales International Security Consulting are always available to provide professional advice for all your security needs, based on our considerable worldwide experience. We can also supply full time security consultants to augment your management teams.