Keypads For Access Control Tutorial

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on May 31, 2018

Keypad readers present huge risks to even the best access systems. If deployed improperly, keypads let people through locked doors almost as if they were unlocked.

However, despite the drawbacks, keypads are still one of the most common choices in access today.

With this note, we examine the weaknesses of keypads including:

  • Revealing Buttons
  • Snooping Eyes
  • PIN Sharing is Easy

Inside we offer advice on how to deploy them securely and examine a type of keypad that overcomes glaring weaknesses.

Operation Described

The function of keypads in access control is dead simple. The door or gate remains locked until the user enters a valid combination string, usually a sequence of numbers. Most access control applications assign each user their own number, called Personal Identification Number (PIN). Unless the user enters a valid combination, the opening remains locked.

Why Keypads?

If these input readers are so terrible, why do people use them? The single biggest 'pro' in using keypads is that no external credential is required. There are no cards or fobs to buy, fingerprints to enroll, and template records to manage. A user is given an access code that is presumably memorized or included in other documents, and nothing else is required.

The lack of external credential results in a lower operating cost relative to 'credential based' systems.

The Problems

Despite being one of the oldest and most used access readers, keypads have huge vulnerabilities. Worse still, it takes no special tools or skills to exploit these problems. While individual units may be better, or even worse, than others at these shortcomings, the biggest problems are:

  • Revealing Buttons
  • Snooping Eyes
  • PIN Sharing is Easy

In the sections below, we examine these issues and address how they undermine even the best access control platform and most secure locks.

****** ******* ******* **** ***** ** **** *** **** ****** systems.** ******** **********, ******* *** ****** ******* ****** ***** ****** as ** **** **** ********.

*******, ******* *** *********, ******* *** ***** *** ** *** most ****** ******* ** ****** *****.

**** **** ****, ** ******* *** ********** ** ******* *********:

  • ********* *******
  • ******** ****
  • *** ******* ** ****

****** ** ***** ****** ** *** ** ****** **** ******** and ******* * **** ** ****** **** ********* ******* **********.

Operation *********

*** ******** ** ******* ** ****** ************* ******. *** **** ** **** ******* ****** ***** *** user ****** * ***** *********** ******, ******* * ******** ** numbers. **** ****** ******* ************ ****** **** **** ***** *** number, ****** ******** ************** ****** (***). ****** *** **** ****** a ***** ***********, *** ******* ******* ******.

Why *******?

** ***** ***** ******* *** ** ********, *** ** ****** use ****? *** ****** ******* '***' ** ***** ************* ** ******** ********** ** ********. ***** *** ** ***** or **** ** ***, ************ ** ******, *** ******** ******* to ******. * **** ** ***** ** ****** **** **** is ********** ********* ** ******** ** ***** *********, *** ******* else ** ********.

*** **** ** ******** ********** ******* ** * ***** ********* cost ******** ** '********** *****' *******.

The ********

******* ***** *** ** *** ****** *** **** **** ****** readers, ******* **** **** ***************. ***** *****, ** ***** ** special ***** ** ****** ** ******* ***** ********. ***** ********** units *** ** ******, ** **** *****, **** ****** ** these ************, *** ******* ******** ***:

  • ********* *******
  • ******** ****
  • *** ******* ** ****

** *** ******** *****, ** ******* ***** ****** *** ******* how **** ********* **** *** **** ****** ******* ******** *** most ****** *****.

[***************]

Revealing *******

****** ******* **** *** ******* **** **** ****. **** ** a **** *******, ******* **** *** ******* ****** ** **** access *** *** **** ********* ******* ***** ** ***. **** the *** ******** *****:

*** **** **** *** ******* **** **** ** **** *** grime **** ****'* *******. ** ***** ******, **** **** ******* show **** ****, *** **** *** **** ************* ******** ***** likely ********* *** ******** ******** ** *** ****** **** * common ************** ** *** ****, *** ** **** *******.

****** ******** *** **** **** * ******* ** ********** **** open **** '*******' ****. ****** *******, **** **** ************ * 'random' ******, ****** *** ********* ************ **** **** ** ********* to * *** *******, *** ****** ************ (*******/*****/********* *******) *** take ******* ** ****** ****.

********, **** ** ******* ** *** ******* ** *** *****. Instead ** *****, ****** *** ****** ******* *** *********** ** stainless *****. ******* *** ***** ******* ** * **** ***** with '*******' *******, *** **** ****** *** ****** ******* *** dull ***** *** ******* **** ***** ******* *** *****. ** this ****, ******** *** **** ****** ************ *** ****** *************.

Snooping ****

**** **** ******** ** ***** ************ ** *** *******, ***** can ** ******* ******** ***** *****.

****** * **** ** ********** ** ********* ***** ******* *** the ****** ***** ******** * ***, **** * ****** ******** can **** *** ******** *** ****. * **** ********** ******** may **** *** **** ***** ****** ** **** '******'******* ********* ***** *** ***** ************:

PIN ******* ** ****

**** ** '*******' ***** ** ******* * **** *** *********, a **** ************* ****** ********** ** ******** *** ***** ******* codes ********. ** *** **** **** ** **** ******** *** an ************ ************, *** ******* * ****** *** **** **** one ***** ****** ***** **** '****** *******' ** ****.

**** ***** *** ******** ***** ***** *** ******* ***** *** written ** ****** ** ********, ******* ** *** **** ** plain *****, *** ******* ********* ****** ********** ****** ***** ** all:

Overcome *** **********

********** ** *** ***************, ******* *** ********* ** ****** ** modern ****** ******* *******. **** ******* ********* *** ****** **********, the ******** **** *** ** *********. *** ***** *******:

***** *** ******** *****

**** **** ****, *****, *** **** '*********' ******* **** ****. Installing******* ****** ** ****** ************* ****, *** ********** ********** *** *******, ******* **** ***** with * **** ******* (******* ******* ** *******), *** ********** the ******* *** ****** *** **** **** ** * **** way ** ********** ********.

*******, *** *** ********** ****** ******* ** * *********** **** not ********* ****** ** ***** ********** ***** **** *********** ***** or **********.

********* ****** ****

*** ** *** ******* ******** ** ****** ** **** *** assignments ***** ******. **** ****, *** ****'* ***** ** ************** to **** *** ****** ****** *****.

*** **** *** **** ************* ****** ** ********* ***** ******* of **** *** ****** ** ****** **** ** * ******* basis. *** ********* ** ******* ******* ** *** ********** ** users, *** ******* **** **** **** *** ****, ******** ***** yearly ***** ********* *** ***** ** ****'* *****.

*********** **************

******* *** ****** ** ******* ** ****** ******** ** ** combine **** **** **** **** *** **********. *** *******, ********* users ***** **** ********** ***** *** *** ************ *** *** added ****** ** ******** **** ******* ****/****** ***** ** ****** codes *** ** ************ ****. ** ******* ***** ******** *********** together **:*****-****** ************** ******.

*******, *** ******* *** ****** ******** ******* ********* ****** ** additional **** ** ********** ******* ******** *** *******/*********** ********* ***********.

Scramble *******

**** ******* *** **** ****** **** ******. * ******* ****** 'scramble ****' ** '****** ****' ** *** ******* ********* ****** in * *********** "*-*,*" ***********, *** ******* ********* *** ****** every **** **** *** ****. *** ********** ********* *** '****** wear' *************, *** ****** *********** **** ***** *** *******. *** common ***** *** ***** *****:

********** ** ***** ***** *** *** ********** *********** ** ****** each **** * **** ******* ** * ****, ****** ** viewed ****** ******** ** ***** ** *** ****. *******, **** are **** ********* (~$*** - $****, ******** ** 'non ********' *****) *** *** ****** ********* ** *** *** system.

[****: **** ***** *** ********** ******* ** ****, *** ************* updated ** ****.]

Comments (20)

Many keypads on public areas (gated communities, certain buildings) that might require emergency responder access often have a code like "0911" or "9110", which further reduces their overall security.

Hey Brian,

Another good article thanks. Quick comment...not sure about labeling this method of access worst or best or anything else. It can be a very feasible security option in many applications...when considering specific criteria and customer needs. It is one factor authentication and certainly has limitations as you properly point out.

Last comment....many keypads (even inexpensive stand alone types) have non-volatile memory for multi codes/users. So if used effectively will mitigate or eliminate the issue of revealing keys using just one code. Still codes need to be changed for everyone time to time as you suggest.

Thanks.

Thanks for the feedback, Marc.

This didn't make the official "don't" list, but you should not write the valid code and tape it up near the keypad, either:

I definitely agree of course, but have worked at one place (a nursing home) where the code to get out of a secure building is noted above the keypad - dementia sufferers have no idea or quickly forget what the numbers are about so they can't easily "escape"/ wander off, but everyone else is easily and safely able to exit at any time. It wasn't my idea but seemed to work OK in that particular site.

We had these at a facility I used to work at. The scramble pads are pretty neat, especially in a card+PIN configuration.

We have from time to time received the access card from a departed employee and found it to have the code for turning off the BA system written on it! I imagine this might happen with PIN codes, too. Silly people...

And the release of the FLIR One attachment for the iPhone just made it that much less secure:

Good advice. But please don't share with my wife. Making sure the gas knobs on the stove are off stresses her out enough.

Tell her to use her nails when punching in pin codes. No need to explain further :)

nice video... very interesting uses...

Found all information very interesting. Never realized there was so much to consider when thinking about readers and key pads.

Low tech

I agree with this article big time. This has to be the most easily manipulated access entry device. Great examples above.

Most access control keypad use is standalone. However if you do integrate it with a full scale system you need to be aware of what format your system wants from the keypad. If you get a keypad that spits out wiegand then your system may think it's a card reader instead. You might need to you 8 bit output or possible something else. Make sure you ask both manufactures before you order and waste time troubleshooting.

Full Disclosure: I represent ProDataKey but in my sincere opinion, this is one heck of a Keypad both in functionality and aesthetics!

ProDataKey Keypad

It looks good, but that is a 125 kHz (I'd guess 26 bit) clamshell card, isn't it?

Does that keypad RFID reader work with 13.56 MHz formats?

Correct 125 kHz only.

I'd guess 26 bit

Based on this?

Yes 26 Bit. HID compatible.

Login to read this IPVM report.
Why do I need to log in?
IPVM conducts unique testing and research funded by member's payments enabling us to offer the most independent, accurate and in-depth information.

Related Reports

Camera Focusing Tutorial on Aug 09, 2018
A camera's focus is fundamental to quality imaging. Mistakes can cause important problems. In this guide, we explain focus issues and proper...
RealNetworks Free School Facial Recognition on Aug 03, 2018
The company that created RealPlayer is moving beyond media delivery and into the security space with a new facial recognition platform they have...
Installing Surveillance Cameras Into Synthetic Stucco (EIFS) Tutorial on Jul 30, 2018
Mounting cameras into synthetic stucco, commonly known as EIFS finishes, can be problematic If not properly planned, EIFS/stucco can be downright...
Door Swing Tutorial on Jul 24, 2018
The direction a door swings might seem minor, but it can greatly impact door hardware selection. There are four basic ways a door can swing, and...
Improved Security And Surveillance Bidding - 2018 MasterFormat Divisions Examined) on Jul 19, 2018
Navigating the world of system specifications and bidding work can be complex and confusing, but a standard format exists, and understanding it...
FST Fails on Jul 17, 2018
FST was one of the hottest startups of the decade, selected as the best new product at ISC West 2011 and backed with tens of millions in...
Installing Dome Cameras Indoors Guide on Jul 16, 2018
IPVM is producing the definitive series on installing surveillance cameras. This entry covers one of the most common scenarios - installing dome...
Belgium Bans Private Facial Surveillance on Jul 06, 2018
Belgium has effectively banned the use of facial recognition and other biometrics-based video analytics in surveillance cameras for private,...
GDPR For Access Control Guide on Jul 03, 2018
Electronic access control is common in businesses plus organizations are increasingly considering biometrics for access control. With GDPR coming...
Allegion Acquires Isonas on Jun 29, 2018
Isonas failed to 'revolutionize' access control as they regularly claimed. Now, nearly 20 years after their founding, they are being acquired by...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Cut Milestone Licensing Costs 80% By Using Hikvision and Dahua NVRs (Tested) on Aug 13, 2018
Enterprise VMS licensing can be quite expensive, with $200 or more per channel common, meaning a 100 camera system can cost $20,000 in VMS...
Nortek Sues SDS, Battle Over Unpaid Bill and Cancelled Lines on Aug 13, 2018
Nortek and SDS legal battle continues. As IPVM reported, SDS sued Nortek alleging bribery and antitrust violation. However, Wave fired back at SDS,...
Uniview Intrusion Analytics and VMD Tested on Aug 13, 2018
IPVM's IP Camera Analytics Shootout featuring Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision created some ill will with a Uniview distributor who...
ADT Employees Protest ADT CEO on Aug 10, 2018
So many ADT employees were so upset with ADT's CEO speech reported on by IPVM, that ADT's CEO was forced to send a mass email to employees to...
Axis / Avigilon Legal Battle Rises on Aug 09, 2018
In what is shaping up to be high-powered, will-not-back-down battle, Axis and Avigilon are squaring off in multiple legal contests. In 2017, IPVM...
Camera Focusing Tutorial on Aug 09, 2018
A camera's focus is fundamental to quality imaging. Mistakes can cause important problems. In this guide, we explain focus issues and proper...
Dahua Ban Response: NOT Chinese Government Owned on Aug 08, 2018
Dahua has responded to the US Congress passing a US government ban on Dahua and Hikvision's products. While Dahua offered the now standard...
Bad Move: ADT Markets Rival Amazon on Aug 08, 2018
Amazon may be lining up ADT as its next victim but ADT is happy to promote Amazon. Amazon has made major moves recently, including acquiring...
Hikvision PanoVu Mini Tested (Multi-imager + PTZ For ~$500) on Aug 07, 2018
Hikvision has released their first PanoVu Mini multi imager, the PanoVu DS-2PT3326IZ-DE3, with four 1080p imagers, including a PTZ and integrated...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact