It’s a popular scene in Hollywood films: the bad guys lurking in and around warehouses, trying to steal a shipment of unknown origin. In the movies, it’s usually not that hard to get into a warehouse. Usually, all that’s necessary is a bumbling (or sleeping) security guard, a pair of bolt cutters and a lot of nerve.
Of course, real life isn’t like the movies, and it’s usually a lot harder to break into a real warehouse. That’s because most warehouse owners and operators have invested a great deal of money and time into physical security precautions. Fences, lighting, security cameras, even armed guards are not uncommon at most warehouses — all with good reason, since most house millions of dollars in inventory and supplies.
However, security has become an even greater priority with the introduction of technology in most operations. These days, when someone gains access to a warehouse, there’s a good chance he will access a lot more than merchandise and equipment. Vital data about the business and its customers are also at stake, thanks to many warehouses moving to computerized functions for picking, packing and shipping. Just one device falling into the wrong hands could present a significant and costly data breach.
Protecting Sensitive Data
These days, almost everything in the warehouse is computerized, from inventory control systems to the scales used to weigh shipments. Because many of these systems are connected to the company’s central networks, they are a prime target for cybercriminals seeking to gain access to customer, business and financial data. It’s not always shadowy criminals who want to steal your customers’ names and addresses; a competitor may wish to access your inventory records to determine whether you can meet customer demand more effectively than they can.
For that reason, warehouse operators must treat cybersecurity with the same sense of urgency they would physical security. That means installing adequate antivirus software, establishing strong firewalls and using the latest security protocols, including encryption and two-factor authentication, to protect devices and servers and the data they contain. The same practices your organization would use in the main office must apply to the warehouse; for example, password management must extend to the warehouse staff as well.
The Human Element
Security experts note the weakest link in many security plans is the human one — that is, the people using the devices. That’s why it’s of vital importance to provide training and education on security protocols as you transition to new technology in the warehouse. For example, do not allow workers to use tablets or handheld computers for personal use, and have a protocol in place for monitoring the whereabouts of all devices at any given moment. Ideally, portable devices in the warehouse should be able to be controlled remotely, allowing IT staff to disable or wipe the devices if they are lost or stolen, thus preventing unauthorized access to the warehouse system. At the very least, portable devices need up-to-date security software installed on them, and workers should only be able to access necessary programs and data.
Physical security of warehouses and warehouse operations will also be important — after all, robbery is always a concern — but the growth in warehouse technology highlights the importance of cybersecurity as well. As you begin implementing the latest technology into your operations, develop a plan for security as well or face costly consequences in the event of a breach.