Building security wtf



  • My company recently moved us into a newer, nicer, bigger building.  I really like it, but the security is a bit of a wtf.  On my floor there are glass doors between the elevator lobby and the work areas that are secured by card access.  The doors are locked by those really strong magnets, obviously with a metal plate on the top edge of the glass.  If you're inside and want out, you simply push the door open.  Motion detectors see you coming and turn off the magnets.  If you're outside and want in, you swipe your badge which turns off the magnets.  Pretty nifty in theory.

    I discovered that the magnets engage when the door closes, and it can take a few seconds for the motion detector or card reader to get it to release again.  So there have been a number of times where I try to leave just after someone else, and the doors refuse to open for a few seconds.  It sounds very trivial, and I know I sound too impatient to just wait for a few seconds.  But think of the old Star Trek blooper reel where Kirk walks into the door that failed to swoosh open on cue - that's what I feel like when this happens.  Plus it's really annoying when I swipe my badge, it beeps and the light turns green, but the door refuses to open. 

    It's also not that great of a security method.  If you want in but don't have a badge, all you have to do is linger near the door, and when you see someone walk by it on the inside, you can pull the door open.  They don't even have to open it for you, just walk by and trigger the motion detectors.

    But wait, here's a bigger wtf:  On the ground floor, we have an open public lobby - anybody can come and go.  The doors to the parking lot have no locks at all.  There is another set of doors on the side where our building connects to another one.  The other building contains common amenities like the cafeteria, conference rooms, auditorium, whatever.  This door is also never locked, but it has motion detectors and alarms on it.  You can walk from our building to the other one freely.  But when you come back, you need to swipe your badge before opening the door or alarms will sound.  It took us all a few puzzled weeks to figure out why the alarm kept sounding when we brought our lunches back!  Why do they need to track who comes in from the common area, but not from the parking lot?  And why alarm a door that's never locked?



  • If it is any consolation, I have seen similar building security WTFs in several sites back when I was working as an IT contractor.  The need for the door to time out before it will re-open is a pretty common one, actually, and I even saw one case where this, combined with a lock (mechanical, not magnetic) that occasionally misfired (causing it not to unlatch) would cause a delay to get in, even if you didn't follow right on someone else's heels.

    Quite honestly, I don't understand why it couldn't be made a little simpler, but for some reason, the security computers need to step through a whole cycle, and they don't report to the red/green light just what the status of the lock is.

     



  • Just for fun when you are on the outside of this security door (the side you need to swipe your card) if there is any gap between the floor or between the doors  shove a piece of paper through there and see if it sets off the motion detector.   If the paper doesn't work something else might.<hints id="hah_hints"></hints>



  • Ha!  I don't think there's a gap under the door, but there is a 1/4 inch gap between the two doors.  You could easily slide a whole folder through it, which would probably trigger the lock. If my org wasn't so darned conservative* it would be fun to have a game or competition to play with the door locks.
     

    *  Read:  stuffy 



  • We have the same type of magnetic locking glass doors here with the motion sensors to open from the inside. The first thing that came to mind for entering the building was take a newspaper from the stand on the opposite side on the entrance foyer and fling it under the doors to trigger the detector. That would get you into the building, but you'd still have to get to the office. The elevators require an access card authorized for a particular floor to go anywhere but the lobby or parking garage after hours. Of course, the elevators have emergency panels in the roof and there's a ladder in the shaft. So, up we go to the floor we want and push the doors open. Now, how to get into an office when each floor has locked main doors and and then within the are of the floor there's individual offices with regular key locks on the doors. Well, look up at that drop-ceiling and push up a tile to find that every wall stop at the drop ceiling rather than going up to the floor above. So, just push up a tile, climb on up and drop down on the other side. There's motion detectors within the area on each floor, but none of the offices inside have detectors so its just a matter of traveling in the ceiling direct from the elevator area into an office without stopping in an interior hallway.

     
    I bet if you look around your building, you'll find similar failures in the security every step of the way. Its really amazing nothing has been stolen, but we've probably lucked out so far because nobody else seems to notice these things until I point them out.

     

     



  • @jetcitywoman said:

    The doors are locked by those really strong magnets, obviously with a metal plate on the top edge of the glass.

    In most of these installations, the magnets are not actually all that strong - it would require too much power, and be a safety hazard (really strong magnets at that height tend to grab at the metal frames of people's glasses, and then people get poked in the eye). If you ram the door like you were trying to bash it in, they'll usually open - or you can just stuff a crowbar into one of the gaps and lever it open without too much trouble. They look very impressive, but they just aren't secure at all (any more than the locks on the front doors of most houses, which can be opened by stuffing a bit of flexible plastic through the crack at the edge of the door). The primary purpose of doors like this is to say "We are rich, look at the cool toys we can afford" to any visitors. They don't keep anybody out who knows the tricks.



  • @IHateEverybody said:


    I bet if you look around your building, you'll find similar failures in the security every step of the way. Its really amazing nothing has been stolen, but we've probably lucked out so far because nobody else seems to notice these things until I point them out.

    This is because you're in corporate buildings. They aren't actually designed to be secure: most corporations really do not care if people steal their stuff, because they have insurance for that, so implementing real security (beyond the requirements of their insurance policy) would be a waste of money. Rather, they are designed to look secure and impressive, because impressing visiting customers and investors is good for the share price. If they did not have to impress anybody, the buildings would not even appear to be secure.

    Real security only happens when there is something valuable to protect that can't be replaced via insurance.
     



  • Its even easier than that actually. Just grab the door and start pushing and pulling as hard as you can and as fast as you can. There's a little bit of movement possible in the magnetic field before it gets difficult. As you you oscillate the door, you'll notice the range of movement increases without it getting more difficult. Think of it like a swing on the playground, hard at the start, but once you are going its little effort to slowly increase the travel. You move a little until you hit resistance (gravity or magnetic), at which point it wants to return, and if you start going that direction you are working with that force and will go further the other way. Keep this up and soon enough you'll manage to get outside the range of the magnet and the door will pop right open. Of course, this is only necessary when there aren't motion detectors to let you in.



  • The building in which I work has a revolving door from the car park etc., into a lobby, from which entry into the building proper is controlled by sliding doors controlled by a pass reader on the way in, and a a motion sensor on the way out. Except for most of the past month these security doors have been stuck open. No idea why...

    The site does have security entrances, and they do look to see if your car and occupants have passes, but not in a usefully strict sense.

    Never mind, I'm only a contractor!

     



  • I wonder if the doors are stuck open due to something stupid like the sun



  • This building has card access for my company's offices, plus another key-fob (or whatever they call it) to get into the building itself after 7PM.  When we first moved in, you would have to use the key-fob to get out of the building after 7PM.  The only problem was that the door would only unlock if you had previously used the key-fob to get into the building.  So that meant that if you entered the building when it wasn't locked (and thus didn't use the key-fob), you had to hunt someone down to let you out after the building was locked.  For the first couple months, there would be a mass exodus of the building just before 7 as people left then came back so they could use the key-fob to get in so that they could leave later on. 

    Thankfully that's all been fixed now, and we don't need to scan the key-fob to get out.
     



  • @asuffield said:

    This is because you're in corporate buildings. They aren't actually designed to be secure: most corporations really do not care if people steal their stuff, because they have insurance for that, so implementing real security (beyond the requirements of their insurance policy) would be a waste of money. Rather, they are designed to look secure and impressive, because impressing visiting customers and investors is good for the share price. If they did not have to impress anybody, the buildings would not even appear to be secure.

    Real security only happens when there is something valuable to protect that can't be replaced via insurance.

    I generally agree with that.  Really, if you wanted to get into our office, all you have to do is follow somebody in.  Nobody actually checks ID.  Even the secure areas of the office are easy to access that way.  Our lab is supposedly restricted access.  But in order to gain access, all you have to do is e-mail the IT guys telling them you need it.  They don't bother to verify that with the managers.  Not that there's anything that's easy to steal in the lab.  You'd look kinda conspicuous taking a server off the rack and walking away with it. 


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to What the Daily WTF? was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.