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Are your property's gate codes already online?

Are your property's gate codes already online?

In this article, we discuss the risks associated with a common practice in multifamily buildings: sharing door and gate codes

Robert Hill
July 18, 2023

Are you an apartment resident who's been guilty of sharing your building's gate code with a friend? Or, perhaps, a property manager battling the potential repercussions of compromised security? If so, this article will shed light on the inherent risks and propose effective strategies to mitigate them.

Let's start with the most glaring concern - security. Gate codes serve as the first line of defense against unauthorized access. When these codes are shared with non-residents, such as delivery drivers, they can easily fall into the wrong hands, resulting in a significant security risk. 

Burglars, vandals, or stalkers can exploit the shared codes to gain entry into the building, jeopardizing the safety and privacy of all residents. 

Sharing Codes with Guests

While sharing access codes with known guests seems like an innocent practice, it does carry a certain amount of risk.  Because these codes are rarely (if ever) changed, they persist far beyond the stay of the guest and residents can’t easily revoke access on a guest-by-guest basis.  This becomes particularly problematic when relationships sour, as the guest may no longer be welcome on the property but will still have the ability to access it - potentially creating significant physical or emotional risk to the well-intentioned resident.

Sharing Codes with Delivery Drivers

The volume of on-demand deliveries of everyday items has never been higher.  So too, are the risks imposed by distributing access codes to delivery workers.  The primary risk associated with this practice is being unable to prevent redistribution.  Lists of gate codes have been published on delivery-driver-focused Facebook groups and even within mapping applications, exposing them to thousands of people who then, in turn, now have a way to access the property.  Another risk is the inability to for residents to grant short-term access using most access systems, allowing the driver to return long after the delivery and commit a crime.  

Risk by the numbers

Many properties have a handful of access codes that are used by large blocks of residents, creating security risks.  Since these codes are shared by so many residents, it’s impractical to consistently rotate the code due to the logistical issues associated with distributing the new code to so many residents.  

In other properties, a unique code is created for each unit, creating the opposite problem of having a few shared codes: having too many possible combinations.  Most systems used by apartment and condominium complexes employ 4-digit access codes.  Since each digit has 10 possible correct answers (0-9), and there are 4 possible locations, there are only 10,000 possible combinations.  If a complex had 250 units, each with its own unique code, then there would be a 2.5% chance of any random combination of numbers granting access to the property.  If you consider each attempt would take no more than 5 seconds to complete, it is probable that a correct code could be guessed within 3:30 - a length of time that might go unnoticed to have someone at the entrance.  This problem is even worse for larger complexes - a 4-digit code for a complex with 450 units could be guessed in less than 2 minutes.

But the math is worst when considering just how far codes can “travel” after being distributed.  If the average resident in a 250-unit complex distributed 2 codes per week to delivery drivers or guests, this results in a code being shared 500 times.  Over a 12-month period, this means up to 26,000 now have a way to get into your property.

Legal Implications 

Aside from the direct risk to safety and privacy, sharing access codes can also have legal consequences. If a security breach occurs as a result of shared gate codes, it may lead to lawsuits filed against the property owner or the residents themselves if these codes are used to cause harm to someone, damage, or steal property.  

Impact on Insurance 

Many insurance companies consider the level of security in a building when determining insurance rates. If the sharing of gate codes is rampant, it can lead to higher insurance premiums for the property owner. In worst-case scenarios, insurance providers may refuse to cover damages resulting from security breaches traced back to shared codes.

Damage to Property 

If gate codes fall into the hands of vandals, it could result in property damage. This could range from the defacement of communal areas to the actual destruction of property, causing financial burdens to the building owners and potential inconvenience for the residents.

So, What Can You Do About It?

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are effective solutions available to mitigate these hazards.

Raise Awareness 

Educate residents about the potential dangers of sharing gate codes and the importance of maintaining a secure living environment. Conduct regular meetings or workshops, distribute newsletters, or use social media channels to get the message across.

Implement Advanced Security Solutions 

Consider upgrading to more advanced security solutions. For example, OpenVia’s guest access features rely on temporary smartphone-based access credentials, meaning no visitors have access to the property longer than desired and their access can’t be easily shared like a code.  In addition, property managers receive access to a complete dashboard, giving them full visibility into 

Restrict Codes to Residents Only

Regularly changing the gate codes can help maintain security.  Properties that choose this option should change their gate and access codes no less than monthly. Ensure the codes are only distributed to residents, and make it a policy that residents should not share these codes with non-residents.

Hire On-site Security 

Implementing on-site security is an expensive option, but may be necessary for properties where security is seriously compromised.  The security staff could then be tasked with checking visitor’s identification, adding visitors to a visitor log, and recording car tag numbers, etc.  

In conclusion, the act of sharing gate codes may seem harmless, but it can potentially lead to serious consequences for both residents and property owners. To ensure safety, privacy, and legal protection, it's essential to adopt best practices for gate access management. Remember, a safe apartment is a happy home.

OpenVia provides the best access management experience at a low cost! Schedule a demo today to learn more!

Robert Hill

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