NSW Fair Trading Keys Into New Security System

The NSW Office of Fair Trading is keeping a closer eye on its 40 sites throughout the state by installing a network of electronic access controls.

Headquarted in suburban Parramatta, the office employs 1200 staff across locations as distant as Albury in the south of the state, Coffs Harbour in the north and Dubbo in the west.

The department is upgrading the security of its sites to silicon key access controls, said Wayne Land, administrative officer of building services.

The controls are currently installed in 22 sites, with more to follow, Land said.

“We’re also using this for our internal security, to safeguard counters, back parts of offices etc,” project manager Wayne Egan said.

“I don’t think anyone’s doing this sort of work [in NSW government] to the extent that we are.” Although the technology is not new, it was selected over other electronic access systems in what Egan said was a carefully thought-out process.

“In recent years we’ve had some break-ins at remote sites,” he said.

“We decided our strategy was to control access to, and movement between our buildings,” he said.

“We have a high staff turnover and there were risks with people losing keys or not returning keys [after they resigned].”

A successful pilot of the controls in 1999 resulted in the decision to widen their use. Due to budget and resource restraints, however, some sites are yet to move from traditional key-based access.

Similar to the e-card controls used by many businesses, silicon key controls are more secure in that the number inside the encrypted key is unique to each key holder. This improves on some [electronic] systems where all keys are the same.

“One of these keys can give access anywhere around the state, or we can program them to allow access only to parts of the department,” Egan said.

He also said the cost of the project was not expensive and there had been no teething problems.

The collection and monitoring of access records will also be improved, Land said.

With plenty of regional sites throughout the department, half the sites using the access controls send access records via modems. The other half are networked in a WAN with the department’s headquarters.

Land said the department is acquiring Compaq Deskpro PCs to connect modem-using sites to a LAN line so he can always ‘see’ them.

“With the modem sites, I have to dial into the controller boxes and download the records. Now obviously if someone’s broken in the night before I’m not going to know about it until I dial-in.

“With the LAN line though I can see when someone’s entered one of the sites and if there is a security issue the system will send me an e-mail to tell me,” he said.

Land and Egan said they could give no final date for when access controls would be fitted and networked at the remaining sites.

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