Security Solutions

The Security Risks of Proximity Cards

As our technology advances, we get more options and functionality when it comes to security solutions for commercial buildings, but the danger of security breaches evolves along with it. Recently, vulnerabilities have increased with proximity cards, and any commercial building that uses them for their access control solutions may find themselves at risk. It’s important to be aware of the threats your security systems may face as well as the proper steps to mitigate their physical security risks.

Proximity Cards and Their Physical Security Risks

Using prox cards or keycards is a convenient and accessible solution for commercial buildings who need to dictate access for occupants, but these physical systems have inherent vulnerabilities. Cards can be stolen by thieves looking to gain access to secure areas, or simply be lost and end up in the wrong hands, leaving your assets exposed to risk down the line. In addition, people with malicious intent can tamper with card readers, rendering them ineffective. But the current and primary threat with proximity cards to be aware of is duplication.

One of the reasons commercial buildings began using card readers is because their new technology allowed for greater control and functionality. Keycards are effective, easy to use, and especially easy to dictate quick access and authorization for specific users. However, it’s also never been easier to duplicate a prox card. You’ve probably seen the kiosks in hardware or commercial retail stores that allow you to copy keys, but did you know these kiosks can now also copy keycards? In addition, there is a plethora of cheap and simple devices you can easily buy online that will duplicate cards as well. Now not only do you have to worry about keycards being stolen, but you’ll never know just how many copies exist out there and who has access to your building and assets.

Recommendations for Enhancing Physical Security

Now that you’re aware of the potential risks of proximity cards, let’s discuss ways to mitigate them. The best way to avoid the problem of duplication is to migrate to encrypted cards. Disabling proximity cards in multi-technology readers will prevent encrypted credentials from being duplicated to unencrypted cards. Though there will be an initial labor and cost investment in replacing these, it’s a smart switch to make, allowing you to still have the convenience of proximity cards but with tighter security measures against duplication.

Many of the physical threats discussed previously aren’t new to access control. The risk of theft or tampering has existed as long as physical keys have been used, and many of the safeguards to be put in place are the same as well. Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure physical security:

  • Implement policies to minimize the risk of card loss or theft, such as securing cards in designated holders
  • Educate users so they are aware of the potential security threats
  • Foster a sense of responsibility for users regarding proper handling of keycards
  • Conduct regular inventory and audits to promptly identify missing cards and ensure that cards are assigned and distributed to authorized individuals
  • Integrate access control with video surveillance to monitor access points

While there will always be potential risks with using proximity cards in commercial buildings, there are new technologies to implement and steps you can take to minimize them. As experts in security systems, LONG Building Technologies can assess your access control system to identify vulnerabilities and then develop the right solution to fill the gaps. It’s not just proximity cards either – we can provide, install, and service a variety of security systems for your commercial building. If you’re looking to make the switch to encrypted cards, add video surveillance to fortify security, or develop improved strategies for physical security risk mitigation, we can help.

Contact Us to Learn More


Dan is an Applications Engineer for our Security Solutions team in Seattle, WA.