Warehouse Management Teams Need to Protect Their Facility From Cyber AttacksAugust 25, 2021
Article by Emily Newton
Cyber attacks are on the rise. Hackers are taking advantage of the chaos caused by COVID-19 and industries’ digital transformations to break into business networks and compromise smart industry devices.
These hackers are often indiscriminate. Every business that stores valuable information can be at risk — and companies that don’t employ cybersecurity practices may be especially vulnerable.
Warehousing is one of the industries that hackers are starting to target more frequently. Management teams need effective cybersecurity practices if they want to defend their facilities against cyber threats.
The Growing Cyber Threat Against the Warehousing Industry
Across the economy, cyber-attacks are on the rise. The logistics industry faced several significant breaches, including the successful attacks on Daseke, Forward Air, and CMA CGM. Most of these attacks were ransomware attacks. These attacks use malware to lock down company files, holding them ransom unless the target pays a sum in cryptocurrency to the hacker.
The rapid rise in cyber attacks over the last few years — and the massive spike in attacks in 2020 — is likely driven by a few different factors.
The growing use of IoT devices and other internet-connected “smart” technology, like autonomous warehouse robotics, may also be encouraging attacks.
In warehouses and similar industrial facilities, these devices help improve connectivity, data transparency, and data availability. Specific devices also make automation of tasks, like picking and packing, much more practical. The technology is often essential for connecting warehouse systems and gathering new types of data.
IoT devices can also be notoriously difficult to secure. Developers do not always design IoT devices with security in mind, and each device added to a network will naturally expand the attack surface a business must defend. When compromised, IoT devices can provide hackers with direct access to a business network or serve as the base for a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
Equipment that enables warehouse automation, like transformers, could also be at risk without the proper protection. Similarly, automated systems may be interrupted, shut down, or begin to behave unusually.
Other Cybersecurity Risk Factors
Businesses are also pivoting to remote work in the wake of COVID-19. Remote work can create new security challenges. If home networks aren’t secure, business networks may be less secure, as well.
The disruption and chaos caused by COVID-19 could also be a factor. Businesses with less money and less room for error may be less able to stage an effective defense against common cyber attacks and more likely to pay a ransom to recover essential files quickly. Many businesses are collaborating with new business partners and adopting new technologies to adapt to changing market conditions. This can mean new, unknown security risks.
Together with the risks posed by IoT devices, these factors can leave a warehouse open to data theft and a compromised network. These data breaches can be costly, both immediately and in the long term. Potential costs can come from lost files, downtime, and lost partner or customer trust.
There have been no signs that cyber attacks will slow down in 2021. With the right strategies, warehouse managers can effectively defend their facilities against the most common cyber threats — like phishing attacks, ransomware, and malware.
Essential Strategies for Warehouse Security
Often, even basic cybersecurity practices can go a long way in keeping business networks safe. Adopting these practices will help protect the network and internet-connected devices from attack. Here are some of the most important strategies for warehouse managers.
1. Keep All Devices and Systems Updated
Developers regularly push security patches that fix vulnerabilities and improve system security and stability. Keeping all systems updated will help ensure any old vulnerabilities aren’t leaving devices open to attack.
Regular updates are also one of the best ways to protect IoT devices and make them less vulnerable to attack.
2. Segment the Network
If all devices and accounts on a network have full access, they can be extremely dangerous when compromised. Segmenting the network limits the access that devices have to the business network.
With network segmentation, an account or device may only access the information they need for day-to-day work. If that device or account is compromised, a hacker won’t pose as much of a threat.
3. Train Employees in Cybersecurity
More and more often, hackers are using social engineering to break into business networks. Phishing attacks, for example, use emails that appear to come from a trustworthy source to convince a recipient to download malicious files or divulge sensitive information.
Most phishing attacks are easy to defeat, but only if an employee knows how to spot them. Basic training on common social engineering attacks can help employees defend the network.
4. Require Strong Passwords
Strong passwords can be a significant deterrent to hackers. Requiring that employees use strong passwords on their devices or accounts can help prevent those devices or accounts from being compromised.
Many IoT devices, for example, use default passwords set by the manufacturer. These passwords are often easy to guess or are available online. If these default passwords are not changed, hackers can use them to break into IoT devices easily. Strong and unique passwords ensure that devices are difficult to compromise in this way.
Strategies like two-factor or multi-factor authentication can provide further protection.
5. Consider a Security Audit
A security audit by a third-party cybersecurity provider can help managers optimize network security. This review of your security systems and business network will give you a good sense of where your network is vulnerable and what steps you can take to harden it against attack.
Defending Warehouses Against Cyber Attacks
The frequency of cyber attacks isn’t likely to decrease soon. Cyber attacks are also on track to become more expensive over the next few years.
Every warehouse manager should take steps to defend their networks against attacks. Warehouse managers who oversee facilities using IoT devices and automated tech may want to be especially vigilant.
Basic cybersecurity strategies can help protect warehouses. Better passwords, network segmentation, and employee training will ensure the facility is prepared for the most common attack types.
About the Author
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, where she covers industrial, engineering, and science topics.