WCTS upgrades swipe access system

Emily Lin-Jones

Whitman College Technology Services (WCTS) updated Whitman’s swipe access and ID card systems for the new academic year, allowing for faster and more efficient programming of new cards. The switchover to the new swipe system happened in March, with the new system going live on May 25.

Although the update happened in the wake of last fall’s security breach, Chief Information Officer Dan Terrio said that it was unrelated. According to Terrio, an update was long due for the system, which was around 15 years old and no longer supported by the company that created it.

“It was more or less an upgrade that we had to do,” he said.

The new system’s main benefit is better efficiency behind the scenes for both WCTS and campus security.

“It’s easier to use. Imagine technology changing in a fifteen-year period … [It’s easier] for us to manage, for campus security to use the system to generate [ID] cards,” said Terrio. “It’s also allowing us to automate things in a much greater fashion.”

The technology for creating new ID cards is now better aligned with the door access system for campus buildings, making it a much simpler process for security to program door access permissions into students’ cards. Terrio said that the improved system will allow a faster turnaround in the event that a student needs a replacement card, and will result in fewer errors in the programming of new cards.

The new ID card printing and programming machines were tested during first-year check-in.

“It was seamless,” said Terrio. “I think we got through the day with absolutely no errors on the cards produced.”

The new magnetic swipe system marks one of several changes made to Whitman’s security system in the past year, along with the re-encoding of ID cards to use encrypted unique ID numbers to discourage any future breaches. According to Terrio, WCTS and campus security are also looking into the possibility of implementing a “two-factor” authentication system on some areas of campus. This would ask students to pass two checks when entering a building, like swiping their card and entering a PIN.

“We don’t know if we’re going to go that direction or not,” said Terrio. “We feel we’ve mitigated the risk well enough right now, but it’s something we’re exploring.”