As IoT technologies continue to proliferate throughout the supply chain, careful IoT entitlement management to thwart would-be bad actors is increasingly critical for maintaining cybersecurity. Unfortunately, many firms aren’t keeping pace with changing times.
One study from HP revealed that 70% of the most commonly used IoT-enabled devices contain serious security vulnerabilities. At the same time, more than half of companies likely don’t have the tools, knowledge, or resources to detect a sophisticated IoT attack.
In this post, we’ll define entitlement management in general, dig into why it’s critical for IoT specifically, and cover the five key characteristics you should look for in an entitlement management platform.
What is entitlement management?
Entitlements are essentially unique, temporary digital keys created to unlock access to features, updates, or network connections in a third-party software. They’re used to validate which users can receive updates or support, and to record who has installed software on any given device. IoT devices could create hundreds or even thousands of entitlements during the course of an eight-hour shift.
Entitlement management is technology that grants, resolves, and revokes a number of authorizations, access rights, permissions, privileges, and other entitlements to monitor and track for irregularities. In other words, it’s software that manages what entitlements a user has rights to, and documents how those entitlements are used.
Investment in entitlement management software can protect your WMS and networked devices and software (at a time when finding experienced IoT and emerging technology security experts is a challenge).
What does entitlement management have to do with 3PL?
Chances are, the firewall protecting your warehouse management software can fend off most frontal attacks on your network without slowing down operations or exploding sensitive customer data. That’s why cyber criminals will regularly use mobile devices to steal credentials and gain easy access to vital systems.
By accessing entitlements created for IoT devices, a hacker can expose customer information, access third-party vendors through software integrations, or install ransomware to seize control of the whole operation.
Most IoT devices use simple operating systems and processors that aren’t capable of running more robust security software — and therefore aren’t designed to stand up to a sophisticated attack. An entitlement management system gives IT teams the tools they need to detect and deflect IoT-associated threats by managing the numerous entitlements that IoT software generates daily.
Five key capabilities of an entitlement management system:
1. Multi-license management
Supply chain companies work with numerous third-party vendors and software providers to move cargo to its final destination.
Not every company operates on the same software systems, procedures, or licensing terms. Those variations may necessitate different levels of access, unique configurations for software integrations, and other factors that require additional management to run smoothly. That can create chaos for IT teams.
You need a system that centralizes and manages complex configurations and licensing agreements without creating vulnerabilities that could be exploited by bad actors.
Entitlement management systems can assign and manage multiple license key generators, apply complex product configurations, generate license authenticity codes for partners, and much more.
2. Streamlined upgrades
Without the help of entitlement management software, the process of keeping software upgrades for numerous applications and integrations current on dozens or hundreds of devices can quickly overwhelm a small IT department.
Your entitlement management software can provide support for regular security updates and major operating system upgrades alike. It can push out critical patches when needed, and determine the number of potentially affected devices before an upgrade.
Not only does this take a burden off your technology team, it also removes some of the onus of upholding cybersecurity best practices from less technical workers on the warehouse floor.
3. Advanced usage tracking
The ability to capture and report on data created by smart devices is a big selling point for supply chain companies. Access to big data processing has made the IoT device a valuable tool for streamlining fulfillment and enabling tracking across intermodal channels.
The ability to connect usage and entitlements to individual IoT devices makes the information collected a node that can be used to create pinpoint devices or users in data sets, and can power evolving use cases as the technology shifts.
For example, entitlement management software allows IT departments to track entitlements created on a device against external logs, which could be valuable in authenticating cargo transfers when combined with blockchain technology.
4. Resource access and control
Controlling who can access online resources and downloads is essential to good cybersecurity. Effective entitlement management software ensures that only authorized users can gain access to your platform.
Entitlement management software should be able to document and control who initiates a download on a device and how many times a file is downloaded by that user. This also prevents workers from downloading software on unsecured devices that live outside your cybersecurity ecosystem (i.e. their personal mobile phones).
5. Get real-time reporting
Real-time reporting presents one of the most promising use cases for supply chain companies using entitlement management tools. Currently, this feature is used to document which users are activating software on which platforms, including renewals and upgrades — a tool that’s valuable for ensuring that devices are kept up to date.
However, by documenting entitlements created in real time, organizations can get a bird’s-eye view of IoT activity as cargo transfers along a supply chain. For companies managing advanced ship-from-store fulfillment, this technology could be used to power-up picking and packing with increased visibility into real-time changes in stock and returns.
Cybersecurity should always be front of mind for supply chain companies that use IoT technology. That means adhering to cybersecurity best practices in-house and selecting partnerships with companies that prioritize information security.
When selecting 3PL partners to manage drayage, freight-forwarding, or portside warehousing, reputation is important. You want a company that has both up-to-date technology and cybersecurity paired with the experience to do the job right.