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Protecting intellectual property with access control in high-tech manufacturing

Protecting intellectual property with access control in high-tech manufacturing
The high-tech manufacturing industry — including semiconductors, sophisticated machinery, computers, etc. — often has very specific requirements for their access control. In addition to basic access control concerns, these manufacturers must also contend with protecting intellectual property (IP) assets and against potentially harmful materials.

Protecting intellectual property assets

John Davies TDSi
John Davies, MD, TDSi
It is imperative for high-tech manufacturers to protect sensitive, proprietary information and technology. The 2017 IP Commission Report estimates that counterfeit goods, pirated software and theft of trade secrets cost the US economy more than US$225 billion annually — with losses as high as $600 billion.

To prevent such losses, access to server rooms and any location containing hardware or paperwork with sensitive data must be limited to avoid breaches. To accomplish this, John Davies, MD of TDSi, said that network and physical security need to work together. This means being able to lock down physical access to any network endpoint if there is a problem — be that an intrusion, fire or other emergency.

Using a layered approach to access management is recommended by Andrew Fulton, Head of Product Management for Access Control at Vanderbilt. “With any manufacturing facility, access levels are critical and being able to tailor them to each member of management, the R&D team or entry-level line workers is important for access management processes.”

The ability to tailor access permissions based on role within the company is one of the biggest features within the high-tech industry, Fulton said. This requires integrating more data management platforms into an overall access control system so that when rules and permissions change on one system, they are changed across the board.

For example, when an employee is dismissed from their position, systems need to talk to each other to ensure that access is restricted. This way, in the event of a negative reaction by the dismissed employee, the facility has the ability to lockdown areas containing sensitive materials and avoid unauthorized breaches of information.

While this may also be applied to more general manufacturing, Fulton stressed it is even more essential when dealing with proprietary information and research where the available margin of error becomes slim.

Protection against dangerous materials

Manufacturing facilities can be dangerous places. Certain high-tech manufacturers, such as those for semiconductors, often work with noxious or potentially dangerous chemicals. In a facility with such chemicals or high-energy systems, manufacturers can use access control to restrict entry and stop those without the right training or approval from entering dangerous areas.

Davies explained that using a single sign-in credential for both physical and network access makes a lot of sense in high-tech manufacturing facilities. “This protects against malicious attacks, but also helps to protect people and property from misuse or dangerous situations, adding a health and safety aspect to access control,” he added.

The access control systems must also be able to evacuate people swiftly and reliably in the event of an incident. It should also provide an accurate roll call and muster function. Davies noted that in the past this was largely done manually with printed lists for the fire and safety marshal. Now, however, handheld readers provide a much faster, more accurate and easier solution for checking everyone has left the building.


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