Read the latest news and blogs surrounding access control, time and attendance systems and integrated security solutions with Tensor plc.
Information Security Tips
Small businesses and organizations may be daunted by the perceived resources it takes to secure their systems; however, not making cyber security a priority could be a costly decision. The following six tips represent key security principles that we recommend implementing and are intended to provide a starting point for a more comprehensive information security plan. For more detailed information on how to create a more robust security plan go to www.staysafeonline.org Ensure that all employees use effective passwords, and when possible, stronger authentication technology. Encourage passwords that are comprised of different upper and lower case letters characters and change them every 60 to 70 days. In many cases, passwords may not provide you with enough protection and security – for a more secure and reliable way to authenticate users and prevent hackers from stealing passwords, you may consider implementing a multi-factor authentication process*. Protect your systems by installing and using anti-virus programs, anti-spyware programs, and firewalls on all computers in your business. Ensure that all computer software is up-to-date and contains the most recent patches (i.e. operating system, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-adware, and firewall). Most security and operating systems contain automatic updates, but make sure that the function is turned on and sign up for security notifications from the software company. Without updates, your systems will not be well protected against new cyber threats. Make regular (weekly) back-up copies of all of your important data/information. Store a secured copy away from your office location and use encryption to protect any sensitive information about your company and customers. Regularly creating back-ups better ensures that your critical data is not lost in the event of a cyber attack or physical incident, like a fire or flood. Be prepared for emergencies by creating a contingency plan for your business, and include provision so that you can continue business operations at an alternate location if necessary. Test your plan annually. Protect your customers’ data from hackers and thieves by encrypting it. Encryption programs encode data or make it unreadable, until you enter a password or encryption key that unlocks it. Some encryption programs are built into popular financial and database software and some broadband providers now include encryption for wireless networks as a part of their service. In some cases you may need an additional program to properly encrypt your sensitive data. Locate and join an organization of your peers for information sharing purposes. If you suspect fraud or criminal intent, report it to the local law enforcement agencies, the local Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, or State Attorney Genera’s offices. Moreover, some states require you to notify your customers if hackers or thieves steal or could have stolen your customers’ unencrypted personal information, including data residing on a computer stolen in the offline world. *Multi-factor authentication is like putting a deadbolt on your front door. The extra “lock” or layer of security makes it more difficult for hackers to view or steal sensitive data. Multi-factor authentication can be a software program or a device that is used in addition to your regular login and password method. Biometrics, such as a fingerprint scanner, is an example. Some organizations also use “risk-based” authentication technology that looks at a number of metrics – such as behavioral patterns, or the IP address – to verify a user’s identity without asking the user for any specific input. In each case, the user can gain access to sensitive data only if the correct information is received (the random number, the right fingerprint, or the expected usage metrics).
Workers On Military Leave
A recent survey has indicated that only 4% of HR executives surveyed reported a “significant impact” within their organizations when Reservists or National Guard members were deployed, while almost two in 10 (19%) said their workplaces have been impacted to “some” extent. The survey also found that almost four out of 10 (38%) respondents said the call-ups had “little” impact and about the same number (39%) said there was no impact at all on their organization. Fewer than 1% of respondents reported having between 11% and 15% of their employee populations deployed by the military. The majority (62%) reported having between 6% and 10% involved in active-duty military operations, while about one-third (34%) reported that none of their employees have been called up for active duty. Of those organizations with employees on active duty, 2% indicated that their employee(s) had been killed while serving in the military, with 1 percent of respondents reporting the death of one employee and an additional 1% reporting the death of 3 employees. One percent of HR executives polled reported having 3 employees wounded so severely while on duty that they were unable to return to work. Three percent reported having 1 employee wounded that severely. Just over half the respondents (54%) indicated that the work of absent Guard members or Reservists was distributed among existing employees. Just over one-quarter of respondents (26%) hired temporary or permanent employees to do the work of absent military personnel. As for pay and benefits, almost four of 10 (38%) employers offered employees additional pay to make up the difference between the employee’s military compensation and his or her salary with the company, while the remainder did not. Six of 10 (61%) employers continued to offer health benefits to employees while they were away on active duty, while 30% did not and 9% were not sure. With the number of workers on military leave increasing, it is vital that organizations make the appropriate arrangements in order to cope with employees having to take long-term absences from employment. To keep track of the changing circumstances of your part-time and full-time employees, you may wish to consider investing in a time and attendance system, which automates the process of recording and paying salaries to your employees.
Impact Of Minimum Wage Hike
Though long-awaited and much discussed, the first increase to the federal minimum wage in 10 years will likely have little effect on the employment world. The provision, which also includes some corrections and adjustments to the Pension Protection Act of 2006, will increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour in three separate phases over two years. Despite the more-than-$2-an-hour increase overall, many states already have higher minimum wages than the federal government. In addition, many industries already have higher-than-minimum wages just to stay competitive and the legal minimum has actually been falling over the last several years in comparison to the overall wage level. In short, the increase will benefit an estimated 4 percent to 5 percent of the workforce who earn less than $7.25 an hour, with the vast majority of employees and employers affected being small businesses and those in the restaurant and retail industries. The increase may have the impact of increasing the lowest-paid jobs in an organization, particularly if they are close to but above the minimum wage. Other jobs that are compared to these close-to-minimum-wage jobs may also be affected as people compare employment opportunities with pay levels. This creates a ‘ripple effect’, which raises pay for many employees, not just the lowest-paid. Businesses may respond by raising prices, reducing labor hours and changing the mix of part-time and full-time employees. However, these actions must also be balanced by increased turnover, which is costly. As big a jump as more than $2 seems, it’s really not a huge increase. What could be significant is the level of fear out there that these kinds of increases will get pushed up the ladder into higher-paying jobs. Though that wouldn’t normally be that much to worry about, in today’s environment, with the price of gasoline so high, people just might be more likely to demand higher wages for skilled positions as well as lower-level ones after this. There is also a prevailing notion that boosting the minimum wage could increase or decrease employment figures. This hike may accelerate the machine-over-people replacement factor, particularly in places such as fast-food restaurants; however, there again, this is likely to be negligible. What’s more, boosting the minimum wage can actually have positive impacts on employers and employees. A recent study showed states that raised their minimum wages above the federal level performed better than low-wage states in terms of retail-payroll growth and overall employment figures. Impact or not, positive or negative, the change to the minimum wage has been a long-awaited victory for many Americans across the country. With changes in state regulation an inevitable part of the future, you may wish to consider investing in a time and attendance system, which automates the process of recording and paying wages to your employees.
Contingent Workforce Growing
A new report predicts that within two years, 10 percent of the entire U.S. workforce will be made up of contingent workers, with pharmaceutical, biotech, and retail sectors experiencing the largest growth in temporary and contract workers. According to the survey, Fortune 1,000 companies will expand the use of contingent workers to manage variable or unpredictable workloads. They will also be required to handle the strong overall growth at many companies and to cope with the difficulty of finding quality workers in a low-unemployment environment. As the contingent workforce grows, corporations will need to be much more sophisticated in managing this increasingly large expense. They must look closely at crafting a well-conceived contingent-workforce program, leveraging technology, and assigning talented managers to oversee this area of operations. According to the report, 77 percent of the companies surveyed expect to grow their contingent workforce in the coming years. It also found that decision-making about the contingent workforce is currently dispersed across several different corporate levels, and the typical manager with responsibility for contingent labor decisions spends only 20 percent to 39 percent of his or her time on this task. The report also found that procurement managers, rather than HR professionals, will increasingly control the management of contingent-labor programs – a notion that could lead to trouble. Procurement managers approach buying people in the same way they approach buying pencils. While a contingent workforce allows companies to put elasticity in the budget, organisations leak millions of dollars annually because they do not effectively manage their contingent workforce. Companies must also focus on the “three Cs” of cost, compliance and control in order to achieve the best possible returns from their contingent workforce. In order to achieve this, you may wish to consider investing in a time and attendance system, which automates the process of recording and paying your contingent workforce.
Building Control and Automation
Why is the security industry showing increased interest in building control and automation? How do such systems relate to what we recognize as standard access control systems? Security is increasingly challenged to create solutions that are both cost-effective and provide much-needed ROI (return on investment), while also reducing the total long term investment in the overall security operation. Security system integration and convergence have made a dramatic impact on creating these efficiencies and enhancing the overall capabilities of the security operation. For some time, there has been integration at basic levels to the building control and automation systems by using mechanical and some serial interfacing. But the increased pace of convergence into the IT/IS space and the use of TCP/IP as a form of communication have opened a new world of possibilities and provided a mean to streamline cumbersome and costly tasks. System Integration with Access Control With heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems accounting for nearly 40 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings in the United States, they are clearly an important opportunity for greater control of both cost and performance. Like all formerly standalone systems, ubiquitous access control systems are converging and integrating into new and expanded areas of control and facility management, including HVAC. This new integration paradigm offers advantages and efficiencies that are now becoming apparent, thus prompting considerable investment. As intelligence and capabilities migrate to edge devices, a period is emerging in which we can integrate and control just about every aspect of a business – telecommunications, network and internet access, HVAC control, elevator control, physical access and video surveillance. The list is limited only by the end-user’s needs and the designer or integrator’s knowledge and abilities. Pushing intelligence to the edge devices will be the future of convergence in the security sector. Access Control: You Have Only Just Begun In addition to providing substantial cost, security and convenience benefits, there are other benefits from automating physical security and building control. Scheduled maintenance of all security and building control systems can be combined, thus ensuring maximum return on investment, lower operational costs and reduced system downtime.
A Reassuring Touch
After years of trial-and-error experimentation, biometric identification is finally starting to see wide-scale adoption by corporations and government agencies. The technology is cropping up in systems used for everything from password and credit card replacement to military and law enforcement pursuits. Biometrics have been under development for a long time, both in the U.S. and abroad. But now, the technology is making the transition from curiosity item to the top of priority list. Opinions vary widely on the merits of various biometric approaches. But according to some experts, fingerprint technology is the most mature biometric technology available today, characterized by relatively easy usability and high accuracy. The use of increasingly capable sensor technology for rising accuracy in fingerprint recognition – especially in terms of reduced “false positives” – is credited for being the main force behind the increased implementation. By combining biometric identifiers with smart cards or key fobs, organizations benefit from an extra measure of security known as “two-factor authentication”. Not only does a user have to present their fingerprint to the scanner, they also have to produce a token identifier as well. Today’s regulatory climate is the biggest single driver toward corporate biometric applications, and as such has stemmed an increasing interest in biometric-enabled systems and software. Tensor is the leading manufacturer of time attendance and access control equipment, and as such have developed systems that incorporate fingerprint recognition technologies. Biometric Time and Attendance Buddy punching is a practice that has been around for as long as clocking in machines have been present in our workplaces. If all that is required to register an employee at their place of work is a clock card or attendance fob, then whoever is in possession of that device is able to “buddy punch” or clock in the owner. By implementing biometrics, an employee must scan their fingertip into the system in addition to presenting their clocking device in order to be clocked IN on a Tensor time attendance system. Biometrics virtually eliminates the occurence of buddy punching, enabling you to keep a firm track on who is at work and when. Biometric Access Control Organizations with secure areas on their site have been particularly keen to implement fingertip recognition capabilities. Access to pre-defined areas is no longer compromised as users must present both their access card or fob and their fingerprint. In addition, a log is generated that displays not only each successful access through a particular point, but also failed accesses along with the identity of the person who tried to gain access. Biometrics does not need to be installed at every access point within your Tensor access control network, so you can pick and choose the areas of your site, which require additional protection.
Contactless Smart Card Technology
Contactless smart card technology is used in applications that need to provide quick and accurate verification, for example access control. Contact smart card technology provides similar capabilities but does not have the RF interface that allows contactless smart cards to be conveniently read at a short distance from the reading mechanism. The smart card technology embedded in a Tensor access control or time attendance system provides the user with an extraordinarily fast read time, typically in under ¼ second. In addition, the read range of the RF readers used to scan the cards can reach 6 inches, even if it is covered in oil or grease. The contactless device includes a smart card secure microcontroller and internal memory, and has the unique ability to securely manage, store and provide access to data on the card, perform complex functions (for example, encryption or other security functions) and interact intelligently via RF with a contactless reader. Applications using contactless smart cards support many security features that ensure the integrity, confidentiality and privacy of information stored or transmitted. Mutual Authentication – for applications requiring secure card access, the contactless smart card-based device can verify that the reader is authentic and can prove its own authenticity to the reader before starting a secure transaction. Strong Contactless Device Security – contactless smart card technology is extremely difficult to duplicate or forge and has built-in tamper-resistance. Smart card chips include a variety of hardware and software capabilities that detect and react to tampering attempts and help counter possible attacks. The on-chip intelligence uniquely enables systems that use contactless smart card technology to comply with strong privacy and security guidelines, as well as deliver the speed and convenience of contactless communication.
Influences on Workplace Ethics
Nine out of 10 (91 percent) employed adults agree that workers are more likely to behave ethically on the job when they have a good work / life balance. In addition, 60 percent of those surveyed believe job dissatisfaction is a significant reason for people to make unethical decisions at work. In the competitive environment to attract and retain talent, it is imperative that employers provide employees with the means to attain a healthy work / life balance. This is not only key to job satisfaction and retaining your most valued employees, but it is also critical in fostering an ethical workplace culture. In the past, organizations were willing to provide resources and support for work / life balance because it was a “nice” thing to do for their employees. They wanted to help employees but there was the implication that there was nothing in it for the employer. Now, many organizations view support for work / life balance as a business tool with significant business benefits. Some of the more inexpensive programs that promote work / life balance include flexitime, telecommuting and compressed workweeks. By implementing different working patterns throughout your organization, the work / life balance of your employees can infinitely improve, however it can often be difficult to keep track of who is where and when. Regulation in the US requires companies to be able to produce accurate records of employee attendance – a task made even more difficult when employees are on different shift patterns, however help is at hand. Tensor manufacture and supply time and attendance systems that accurately record and process your employees’ clocking data. Multiple shift patterns can be monitored, analyzed and reported upon, giving you all the information needed for accurate processing of working time. Not only providing assistance with regards to collection of attendance data, the clocking system can export this information to your payroll system, thus automating a large part of your monthly accounting processes. The introduction of programs that promote work / life balance in your organization are proving to be a worthwhile investment, producing a happier and more ethical workforce well into the future.
Time Management Horse Sense
Every horse race has a first place winner and a runner-up, second place contender. It is not uncommon for the first place horse to earn twice the prize as the second place finisher. Curiously, the number one horse did not have to run twice as fast or go twice as far as the competition to get twice the money. It only had to be a nose ahead of the competition to reap twice the rewards. Time management, personal productivity, and success in life are a lot like the horse race metaphor. To get twice as much in life, in any of our many dimensions, health, family, financial, intellectual, professional, social, and spiritual, we do not have to double our effort and input. We only need to get a nose ahead of where we are now to realize significant increases in our results. Five suggestions, when applied, can help us to get a “nose ahead.” First, plan your day, every day, preferably, the night before. Then, when arriving at work and clocking in, there is a plan of action to direct us forward. Without a plan, temptations may draw us into unproductive avenues where we may serve the loudest voice that demands our time rather than dealing with the most productive opportunity. A simple plan consists of a list of all the items we ideally might want to accomplish during the next day. Prioritize those items in order of their importance. (#1 for most important, #2 for next most important, etc.) Begin the most important item first, then go to the next most important item, etc. Typically, it is unlikely that all items on the list will be completed, but that is fine. Success has little to do with how much was left undone at the end of the day but, rather, what was actually accomplished. We will always leave undone more than we do get done simply because we all have more to do than time permits which says a lot of good things about how good we really are, to have so much entrusted to us by so many! Second, overplan your day to take advantage of “Parkinson’s Law” which teaches that, “a project tends to take the time allocated for it.” If you give yourself one thing to do during the day, it will likely take all day to complete it. If you give yourself two things to do during the day, you will likely accomplish both. If you give yourself twelve things to do during the day, you may not get all twelve done, but you may complete seven or eight items. Having a lot to do creates a healthy sense of pressure on us to naturally become better time managers. With a lot on our plate, we tend to be more focused, we tend to suffer interruptions less so, and we delegate better. Third, work with a clean desk and work environment. There is truth in the saying, “Out of sight; out of mind.” Equally true is the reverse, “In sight; in mind.” When items are in our field of vision, we cannot help but be distracted and pulled in the wrong direction where we may major in the minors, busy all day long, but accomplishing little of significance. Fourth, restrict meetings. During any typical business day, there are reportedly 17 million meetings being conducted in the United States. A meeting is two or more people getting together to exchange common information. Simple enough, but probably one of the top institutional time wasters. Always ask, “Do I contribute anything to this meeting?” and “Do I get anything of value from this meeting?” If the answer to both questions is “no,” try to find a way out of attending the meeting. Finally, handle paper just once. Get out of the “shuffling blues” when paper is looked at and relooked at again and again while deadlines slip through the cracks as we get buried under a blizzard of paperwork. As you encounter each new piece of paper, if it can be responded to quickly, in a minute or less, respond then and there. If it will require a longer effort, schedule it for a time when you will get to it and then put it away.