You may have read my last post about plane spotting at London Stansted Airport but you may be surprised to learn that, unlike many of the people who watch around the airside security fencing, I actually have clearance to go inside the Critical Part of the airport.

I actually work as a Sales Assistant for WH Smith however due to the nature of the business their employees require security passes with reasonably extensive access rights; well, for a retailer…

First some background: Stansted uses a standard security system used by many other airports in the UK manufactured by CEM Systems. It looks something like this in the publicity shots:products

Or, here’s a real-world card reader that I use very frequently to access the Retail Store in Satellite 3:IMG_0479

Everyone has a pass that bears their photo for visual inspection by security guards and which contains an NFC chip to activate the card readers on security doors within the airport’s Critical Part. Once activated, the card readers then ask for the card user’s PIN and this is validated against a network server or a locally-cached database should the network be unavailable. Assuming the PIN is correct and the user is permitted to access that area then the door controller will unlock the door. The system can also be extended by creating zone interlocks between multiple doors, implementing a PAX mode (passenger mode) on doors next to departure/arrival gates and by adding door sensors to detect door closure and alarms to activate if doors are forced open or wedged open for a certain time limit.

The airside passes operate a simple zone access system: 1 for landslide, 2 for the critical part, 3 for the baggage reclaim hall, 4 for external airside staying clear of airplanes, 5 for access to the areas in vacinity to aircraft, 6 for access inside aircraft and 7 for all areas. There is also a red ‘B’ symbol which permits access to the baggage make-up area and facilities.

The passes also come in 4 different colours: yellow for landslide, green for internal airside, blue for external airside and red for access all areas. A red pass is actually quite rare – I’ve perhaps only seen two or three in my time.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. All this got my thinking about creating a networked access security system using a Raspberry Pi and a Mifare NFC card reader. Not for any serious security purposes, just for a bit of fun, so I have a few parts on order already; updates to follow!

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