“Allow App to Access Contacts?”: Corporate Data Security and Logistics

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April 29, 2014

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Photo credit: http://www.extremetech.com/

Photo credit: http://www.extremetech.com/

Remember when Angry Birds was all the rage among casual mobile gamers? Temple Run? Candy crush? Or maybe you prefer the more recent Flappy Bird- the concept is the same. These were apps that too the market by storm, with mobile users around the globe rushing to download them and share their scores with friends, providing viral marketing for the products. This phenomenon is not just limited to gaming apps; a friend with an interest in cooking may refer you to a recipe app, or you may discover a schedule planning app that you believe will boost your productivity. Quick question: before clicking ‘download’ how many of you take the time to really read through the permissions the app requires?

We’re guessing the answer is a resounding silence. It is this insidious loophole that makers of even the most innocent apps have taken advantage off to allow themselves to quietly slip your personal data right out of your phone. This information may be shared with advertisers or even malicious 3rd parties in a way that is perfectly legal since you signed on the virtual dotted line by ‘accepting’ the permissions required by your app of choice.

It is from here that we draw today’s logistics lesson on data security. With personal data breaches being taken so seriously that the the technology has been created to have a hack-proof phone known as the “Blackphone”, imagine how much higher the stakes are for corporate data security.

The key concern for any company, logistics firms included, is the risk of customer data being stolen or divulged. A worrying trend in cyber crime is the ‘ransom hit’. Here, companies’ client databases, containing sensitive parameters such as ID numbers, addresses and confidential information are hacked into. The hackers then threaten to release or sell this information to the highest bidder with less than moral uses for the data unless the victim company pays a certain ransom amount. Any supply chain manager would be terrified at the thought of this scenario: not only is it our responsibility to protect customer information, such a breach could cost the firm revenue as consumers would be unwilling to deal with a company that cannot safeguard their information.

Photo credit: http://www.bubblews.com/

Photo credit: http://www.bubblews.com/

In arenas where corporate competition is not guided by a code of ethics, logistics companies must be wary of competitors launching a digital attack in a bid to obtain an edge in service provision, perhaps by sabotaging relations with vendors or stealing trade secrets, although this is more common in sectors with specialized formulas to protect, e.g. soft drinks, perfumes, food industry and so forth.

Another possible type of attack on company data security involves the destruction or alteration of data, as opposed to outright theft. Here company records are preyed upon, with cyber criminals going the extra mile to delete important information, such as inventory records, or logs of payments due to the company, thereby hampering or even crippling information where no back ups were available.

Perhaps the greatest risk in this day and age of interconnected business involves spreading the blight of data tampering to corporate partners. With supply chain managers encouraged to link their systems with those of important stakeholders in the business for efficiency of information flow, where one system has been compromised, all others at risk of being corrupted.

With cyber thugs becoming more and more savvy each day, the onus is upon us in the logistics industry to stay one step ahead and fortify our online security systems. Perhaps we can start by thinking twice about downloading that hot new app with a lengthy list of permissions? Wishing you all a cautious week. 


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