Manufacturing and warehousing stakeholders cannot afford to leave transformative connected assets unprotected.

The internet of things has catalyzed immense growth across numerous industries. However, few sectors have seen as much IoT-related advancement as the manufacturing  space. Here, firms leverage countless advanced IoT assets to streamline their operations, raise their production ceilings and bolster their bottom lines. Connected devices have transformed all areas of the manufacturing supply chain, including warehousing, where an estimated 42 percent of operations are planning to increase investments in automated technology this year, according to a study from Peerless Research published in Logistics Management. 

However, as more shipping and receiving facilities delve into the world of industrial IoT technology, they are bound to encounter serious risks. Why? Connected production assets and the backend systems that support them are major targets for cybercriminals who spend their days prodding enterprise endpoints in an effort to enter company servers and steal the information stored within them. Unfortunately, many succeed. Hackers orchestrated more than 1,500 large-scale breaches in 2017 and absconded with more than 178 million sensitive files, analysts for the Identity Theft Resource Center found. Manufacturers and their supply chain partners were certainly among the businesses affected.

The continued ascent of IoT technology has only emboldened these nefarious coders, who now look to exploit growing data security gaps, according to Forrester. Many modern organizations, including those in the industrial space, are simply unable to protect their IoT solutions, as their respective data security protocols fail to move forward at the same accelerated pace as their IoT adoption efforts. In January, researchers for Verizon Wireless connected with 600 internal mobility specialists at businesses around the globe and asked them to describe the quality of their respective IoT-centered data security programs. Only 26 percent of respondents said their existing defenses and policies were very effective –  this despite the fact that 79 percent agreed IoT technology was the greatest security risk.

This has to change. Manufacturing and warehousing stakeholders cannot afford to leave transformative connected assets unprotected. How can these leaders boost data security operations within their respective domains and reap the full benefits of the IoT? Here are some of the strategies innovators in the data security space recommend:

"An estimated 42% of warehousing operations are planning to increase investments in automated technology in 2018."

Tightly control data access
The subject of cybercrime often brings to mind the image of the programmer typing away in some dark room, leveraging advanced coding knowledge to hack into complex data caches. There is some truth to this notion, as highly-skilled hackers are responsible for many attacks. However, this idea fails to capture another less romantic type of cybercriminal: the inside actor. These individuals often enter company servers using legitimate credentials but then navigate to storage space unrelated to their job duties in an effort to extract valuable information they can sell to competitors or buyers circulating the dark web. In 2016, inside actors were responsible for an estimated 60 percent of all cyberattacks, according to IBM.

Manufacturing and warehousing leaders managing vast endpoint expansions due to IoT implementation efforts must take action to prevent this kind of activity. Controlling data access is the only solution here, TechRepublic reported. The administrators doling out login credentials and surveying backend activity must use extreme caution and ensure users can access only the information that is applicable to their work. In short, the era of the super user is over.

Implement network segmentation
Cybercriminals can often gain access to an entire enterprise network by simply compromising one device, whether it be a radio-frequency identification reader or an advanced sensor used in a preventive maintenance program. According to Gartner, there are more than 3.1 billion active enterprise IoT devices in place today, which means cybercriminals have an immense number of doorways they can use. Sadly, closing off endpoints to external penetration is likely impossible. Despite the existence of security-by-design standards, hardware and software regularly hits the market with existing backdoors. Additionally, reckless user behavior often negates any kind of pre-installed protections. With this in mind, manufacturers and shipping and receiving facilities have to prepare for the worst.

Network segmentation is the ideal fallback strategy for IoT-equipped organizations, according to the experts at Malwarebytes. This involves creating and cordoning off a separate IoT network so, in the event that a device is hacked, the intruder will not be able to dig further into company data caches and obtain trade secrets or customer or employee information. 

Work with reliable vendors
In addition to embracing IoT-tested data security practices like the ones mentioned above, manufacturing and fulfillment operations boarding the IoT bandwagon should choose their vendors carefully and only work with software and hardware providers that develop and deploy sound solutions that are designed with data security in mind and are easy to protect. Here at F&A Data Systems, we are proud to say that our warehouse management solutions are built to withstand the threats facing industrial businesses in the era of the IoT. We build cutting-edge WMS solutions that leverage technology from respected vendors like Dell, Microsoft and Oracle to support secure automated workflows that drive efficiency and bolster bottom lines.

Connect with us today to learn more about how our solutions can help your firm embrace IoT technology while mitigating the risks that accompany it.