Strengthening Security In the Warehouse Despite Legacy Technology

Strengthening Security In the Warehouse Despite Legacy Technology
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As businesses continue to embrace IoT, the sheer quantity of connected devices in warehousing today opens innumerable points of access for cyberattacks with costly repercussions. By Aik Jin, Tan, Vertical Solutions Lead, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific

COVID-19 saw many businesses scrambling to accelerate their digital transformation. This rapid and unplanned digitisation has in turn exacerbated the vulnerability of systems all over the world, increasing the risk of cyberattacks and systems being compromised. Organisations are perturbed – with 30 percent of businesses globally seeing an increase in attacks on their IT systems because of the pandemic[1]. Fifty billion devices will be interconnected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2022[2], and as businesses continue to embrace IoT, the sheer quantity of connected devices in warehousing today opens innumerable points of access for cyberattacks with costly repercussions.

In Singapore, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) reports that there is an increase in malicious cyber activities locally, with threat actors using the pandemic to lure potential victims by exploiting their insecurities and fears during this unstable time[3]. In a recent report on the COVID-19 cybercrime impact on Asia, the INTERPOL warned that cybercriminals are taking advantage of the economic downturn and the public’s anxiety to enhance their social engineering tactics by using COVID-19 as a basis for their attacks[4].

In any case, any device connected to a network is an endpoint available for an attack. It is therefore critical for warehouse decision makers to modernise their technology solutions and protect their operations from possible downtime or infiltrations into private company records through connected devices. In these challenging times, it is essential that warehouse operations continue to run smoothly, and inventory visibility is maintained.


Fix it before it’s broken

Aging technology solutions are inherently highly susceptible to cyber security threats. Many warehouse operations have adopted a “don’t fix what isn’t broken” attitude because their solutions have continuously been running. However, this approach opens businesses up to security risks every day.

Generally, legacy solutions are prime targets for security threats. They leave doors unlocked in today’s aggressive cybersecurity environment. According to Carbon Black, 59 percent of attacks are aimed at the manufacturing sector (up from 41 percent reported in November 2018). Fifty percent of attacks attempt to “island hop”, i.e. to access networks of any organisation in a company’s supply chain, which means that inadequate security in your warehouse puts your business partners at risk too.

Despite existing measures taken by IT security to protect their warehousing operations from top trending IoT security challenges, the level of emerging threats has evolved and advanced, putting day-to-day operations at stake.

For optimal security, warehouse operations and IT decision makers need to conduct proper assessment and evaluation of  their entire line of technology solutions—from Mobile Device Management (MDM) applications and Warehouse Management System (WMS) and enterprise systems, laptops and tablets to endpoints not commonly recognised as highly vulnerable, such as handheld mobile computers and enterprise printers.


Modernising and Securing the Warehouse

One of the smartest, and most secure responses for modernising warehousing with mobile computers is to migrate to enterprise-class, Android-based mobile devices.

The reasons are compelling: Microsoft has ended extended support for Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 operating system (OS) and will be doing the same for Windows Embedded Compact 7.0 OS by 2021, leaving Microsoft-based devices nearly defenseless against new threats. Android-based solutions incorporate security features which are built in as a core competency, rather than tacked on as an afterthought. More importantly, warehouse 4.0 is here, modernisation is inevitable and migrating to Android is essential for today’s warehouse.

Modernising devices and services to warehouse operations will support the longevity of enterprise mobile devices, some of which can last up to 10 years or longer. It will leverage multiple layers of security already designed into the solution to protect network vulnerabilities at the edge and with long-term security operating system (OS) support from manufacturers such as Zebra LifeGuard for Android. It will also give warehouse and distribution center operations with limited or no assigned on-site IT support the security attention they need by enabling them to implement, manage, troubleshoot and configure device fleets remotely from a single location and update security patches and protocols on time.

Zebra’s Warehousing Vision Study found that 68 percent of respondents claim that IT/technology utilisation will be their top challenge over the next five years, even before the COVID-19 outbreak. More needs to be done to secure the rest of the technology throughout warehouse operations, by taking measures to lock down each entry point such as:

  • Automate appropriate management for locating solutions certification, such as WLAN and Bluetooth security certifications management.
  • Secure printers—security intelligence inside printers is as important as the security inside the OS of a laptop, tablet, or handheld mobile computer.
  • Choose printers with embedded security features, such as those that offer protection during OS upgrades or other unauthorised changes, encrypting all connections, providing real-time visibility and management and the capability to remotely update security throughout their lifecycles.
  • Align practices with the guidelines and laws established by globally recognised security organisations, including FIPS-140, PCI-DSS, GDPR, ISO and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.


The Power of Transforming your Warehouse

Warehouse operations cannot afford to be slow to modernise. The lag time can cause increased vulnerability to security breaches with repercussions that involve compromising the privacy of sensitive data, operational downtime, revenue losses, legal or regulatory infractions and harm to a company’s reputation.

It is also a missed opportunity for businesses to meet today’s on-demand economy requirements. By migrating to modern OS for all connected devices and technology and introducing automation into the warehouse, workers will be more equipped to handle greater order volume. A modernised warehouse will optimise operations and workflows powered by data-driven insights, which will in turn help businesses grow their bottom lines and maximise efficiencies.


[1] Hackerone, 11 August 2020
[2] “The Internet of Things: Consumer, Industrial & Public Services 2018-2023,” Steffen Sorrell, Juniper Research, June 2018, page 7.
[3] Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, 1 April 2020
[4] Atlas Institute for International Affairs, 26 August 2020


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