RFID technology can transform the warehouse but it comes with serious data security risks.

Radio-frequency identification technology is ubiquitous in the shipping and fulfillment sector. Why have so many organizations adopted RFID fixtures? The answer is simple: they offer immense performance benefits for logistics management. An estimated 80 percent of adopters experience an 80 percent improvement in picking and shipping times, according to research from RFID solutions provider CYBRA. The power of RFID isn't simply limited to to efficiency and speed: RFID technology allows global brands like fitness retailer Lululemon to achieve inventory accuracy rates of 98 percent, RFID Journal reported. In short, these unassuming items can make an immense impact on the shop floor.

However, adopting RFID technology is not without risks. Hackers executed more than 42,000 cyberattacks last year, targeting businesses across multiple industries, according to research from Verizon Wireless. Distribution centers are prime targets for cybercriminals, as these facilities act as junction points for multiple enterprise systems, including RFID-related frameworks. These solutions present multiple data security pain points.

Interrupting the data flow
RFID technology centers on the transmission of data via radio waves. When an employee points an RFID reader at a tagged product, the device's antennae send out an electronic signal that pulls information from the RFID chip within the item tag and transmits it to an overarching warehouse management system. While effective from an operational standpoint, the process presents one central security challenge: Radio waves are susceptible to interruption.

"Distribution centers are prime targets for cybercriminals."

Hackers intent on shutting down operations via denial-of-service attacks can actually intercept these waves and orchestrate system shutdowns, RFID Insider reported. Blocking these signals is not particularly difficult, neither is disrupting them with close-range noise interference. Some cybercriminals wreak havoc through man-in-the-middle attacks, which involve intercepting RFID communications and then distorting their content. Those hoping to abscond with company data can use a similar method called eavesdropping. This normally necessitates the use of an unauthorized RFID reader. In some cases, hackers record conversations between legitimate readers and RFID tags, and use these hijacked frequencies to steal information.

These hacking methods are just the tip of the iceberg. Cybercriminals who wish to disrupt operations or steal data can pursue numerous alternative avenues.

Gaining unauthorized entry
While web-only cyberattacks are most common in this day and age, some malicious actors still prefer physical infiltrations. In fact, an estimated 8 percent of all attacks recorded in 2016 involved physical actions, security researchers from Verizon discovered. Unfortunately, warehouses and distribution centers are perfectly suited for this brand of nefarious activity. The average facility measures 550,000 square feet and employs 275 workers tasked with managing nearly 14,000 product units, according to the Supply Chain Management Review. This sort of hustle and bustle provides ample cover for individuals looking to explore stock unnoticed and RFID technology presents the perfect entry point.

When RFID fixtures hit the market in the early 2000s, many security-conscious companies snapped them up for use in proximity card systems. Hackers immediately pounced on this use case and began developing technologies to take advantage of RFID-based entry systems, Wire reported. These efforts birthed cloning devices that can copy the unique radio signals emitted from an RFID chip and mimic them when in the vicinity of an RFID reader. Such items present a serious problem for shipping and fulfillment managers, as individuals with this easily obtainable technology can enter facilities without authorization and do major damage.  

In recent years, companies have upgraded their proximity card networks, distributing higher frequency RFID passes that are harder to hack, according to eWeek. However, this slight upgrade is not enough to fend off cybercriminals who continue to expand their bags of tricks. Encrypted RFID technology is the ideal solution, but the increased price point often dissuades organizations from making the investment.

In today's technology-driven business climate, organizations must take these threats seriously and implement secure systems that can stand up to cyberthieves looking to cause chaos or steal sensitive data. Here at F&A Data Systems, we produce cutting-edge warehouse management software that can do just that. Connect with us today to learn more about our product offerings.