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Guarding the Giants: Best Practices for Managing Access to Industrial Zones

Across the vast industrial landscape, gigantic behemoths stand tall: smelters, mines, construction sites, refineries, and power plants. These zones are characterized by their sheer scale, but more than that, by the meticulous orchestration of humans and machines. Without proper identity & access management to critical infrastructure, industrial zones can easily become a tangled web of danger risks, insider threats, security breaches, compliance nightmares, and financial pitfalls.

The Industrial Enigma: Why Proper Access Matters

Large industrial zones aren’t just about heavy machinery and raw materials. They’re repositories of valuable data, critical infrastructure secrets, and proprietary methodologies. Unauthorized access can also endanger lives and have massive financial liability, given the hazardous nature of many industrial operations.

Disjointed Systems, Disjointed Security

Navigating the maze of security in expansive industrial environments can be daunting. With varied zones, each with its unique security needs and rules and restrictions, ensuring proper access (authentication and authorization) becomes a complex endeavor. The real complication arises when you try to manage this access with disparate systems that operate in silos. Each system might be efficient in its own right, but when they don’t synchronize and communicate, the security gaps widen and risks escalate.

Here are a few examples of how security can go awry within the industrial complex:

The Compliance Fiasco 

Picture a bustling smelter, where the heat from molten metal is only rivaled by the intensity of work. A routine audit reveals discrepancies between personnel access logs and actual job roles. Employees, whose roles have evolved over the past few months, still carry access rights from their previous positions. This not only risks safety violations but also contravenes NERC certification standards and CIP compliance. Such lapses could result in heavy fines of up to $1,000,000 per day, denting both the facility’s finances and reputation.

The Visitor Dilemma 

Lucia, an external consultant with sharp acumen, visits a mining site to offer her expertise. She’s granted temporary access to specific zones. However, once her consultancy wraps up, the system’s delay in revoking her access creates a ticking time bomb. When her access card is inadvertently misplaced and falls into unscrupulous hands, the site is exposed to an inadvertent yet significant security breach and insider threat.

Each of these scenarios underscores a fundamental flaw: while each system—security, personnel, contractors, visitors—might function optimally in isolation, the lack of a unified approach creates tangible vulnerabilities. It’s akin to having the best musicians in an orchestra, but without coordination, producing a cacophony rather than a symphony.

The New Contractor Paradox 

Jake is a contractor, fresh on a six-month project within a sprawling power plant. His initial assignment requires access to primary zones, and as such, he’s given an access card with those permissions. However, as projects often evolve, Jake is soon required to collaborate with a team in a different zone. While HR promptly updated his status, the security system lags behind. Resultantly, Jake finds himself stranded outside vital areas, leading to hours of lost productivity, increased frustration and potential project delays.

Jake’s card as a contractor does not have a photo. On Tuesday Jake is sick and in fear of losing his job, has his friend stand in for him at the site using his card. His friend attends the site and now has access to critical infrastructure creating a massive insider risk. These contractor scenarios are very common making authentication (who you are) as important as authorization (where you can or can’t go). 

RightCrowd to the Rescue: Streamlining Access for the Industrial Titans

Industrial zones require a security solution that’s as robust, dynamic, and intricate as their operations, and where automation of business and security rules are completely tied together. This is where RightCrowd Workforce Access (PIAM) shines:

Unified Management 

By bringing all business systems under one umbrella, RightCrowd ensures that changes in one system (like an employee’s role) reflect instantly across all others, eliminating delay, confusion, and potential breaches.

Guaranteed Compliance 

With NERC certification and CIP compliance at its core, RightCrowd not only makes compliance effortless but also continuously monitors for potential breaches, ensuring industries remain on the right side of regulations. Mandatory User Access Reviews for compliance become effortless and accurate. 

Financial Efficiency 

Reducing the risk of fines from non-compliance, minimizing delays due to access issues, and preventing potential breaches – RightCrowd offers a tangible return on investment (ROI). 

The vast expanses of industrial zones represent a delicate balance between monumental scale and intricate precision. RightCrowd Workforce Access sits as a software layer between your company’s physical access management system and other software systems your company uses, like an HRIS, LMS, etc.  Your “dumb” physical access management system becomes “smart” by utilizing RightCrowd.  

Designed with industrial complexities in mind, RightCrowd integrates every aspect of access management. Whether it’s promptly updating permissions, ensuring compliance with stringent NERC standards and CIP mandates, or safeguarding cardholder information, our intelligent PIAM solution is built to deliver. By streamlining processes it reduces friction, making access smooth for authorized personnel and insurmountable for intruders. Through guaranteed compliance, it protects industries from the financial and reputational repercussions of lapses, and with its commitment to accurate cardholder data, it ensures that every entry and exit is documented with precision.

Download our Workforce Access Checklist to help with your 2024 security planning.

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