Magazine Article | September 18, 2007

Secure Your Wireless Environment

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

One security solution, covering all devices, should be your end goal.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, October 2007

Securing a wireless infrastructure is of paramount importance for today's retail companies. The presence of new technologies can be translated into instant productivity gains. However, if a company's wireless security solution is insufficient, these new opportunities could turn destructive. For example, as retailers gather more information about their customers, the retail industry is becoming a prime target for hackers in search of credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other confidential information.

Balance Protection With Cost, Ease-Of-Use
In today's wireless retail environment, typically there is a mix of old and new solutions with many vendor-specific devices and systems that need to be secured separately. This is quite a task considering the wide range of wireless devices used in a retail environment (e.g. scales, printers, theft equipment, scanners, radio frequency identification readers, price verifiers). In the back end of retail operations, wireless devices are communicating with these systems — leaving an opening between the protected, wired back office and the public wireless area. The key issue is to protect sensitive data and provide secure wireless access, without sacrificing performance and ease-of-use, or adding unnecessary administration and cost.

Seek Smart Wireless Solutions
Any openings in the wireless infrastructure give hackers the opportunity to access confidential information such as merchant data, customer data, and credit card information. A break in the system may result in eroded productivity, financial losses, fines, and penalties, in addition to threatening the company's reputation and customer loyalty. The possibility alone creates a demand for a security solution that ensures only authenticated traffic enters or leaves the secured back end systems.

Retailers need to protect capital investments in legacy wireless devices. They should seek smart wireless security solutions that cause minimal or no change to the current setup. The selected security solution should provide support for a variety of systems. Such systems include legacy DOS devices, embedded systems, future devices, and off-the-shelf standard operating systems. Employing one solution to cover all these devices gives full protection with minimal costs for support, configuration, and administration.

Build To Standard, Stay In Compliance
The legal and financial responsibility for taking the proper precautions when collecting, storing, and sharing customer information introduces another important aspect when choosing a security solution: The retailer should also make sure it is in accordance with the PCI (Payment Card Industry) Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). The penalties for noncompliance can be severe. In some cases, fines can reach up to $500,000.

Furthermore, adding security must not affect usability or daily operations. The chosen solution shouldn't require an investment to train existing and newly hired staff members. Additionally, it is always essential that the solution protect data while minimizing the impact to the daily operations, which enables the retailer to reach sales goals without distractions. The ideal solution will give retailers peace of mind and the opportunity to focus on its core business.

Asa Holmstrom is president of Columbitech.
She can be reached at