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July 21 2006 12:18 PM

Editor�s Note: Johanna Boller will be presenting at the annual Parcel Shipping & Distribution Forum (see page 23). As a prelude to her session, �What Every Shipping Manager Needs to Know for Success in 2006,� Ms. Boller has written the following article.
What if somebody prints out your company�s shipping address book � with all your client and supplier information � and gives it to your competitor? What if a package containing extremely valuable company assets never arrives at its destination? What if someone uses your shipping department to ship a �dirty bomb?�
Whether you�re talking about corporate espionage, asset or identity theft or terrorist actions, it�s clear that companies need to invest in the people, processes and technological infrastructure that will protect critical business assets and data. Look no further than the newspaper headlines, and you�ll see plenty of examples of these falling into the wrong hands.
For instance, the Secret Service was notified recently when one of the world�s largest financial-services companies said computer tapes containing personal data on nearly four million loan customers � including Social Security numbers � were lost in mail delivery. The courier said the search for the missing package was continuing. In another instance, a storage service company misplaced tapes belonging to one of the country�s largest communications companies that contained the names and Social Security numbers of 600,000 current and former employees. After the loss, the company said it would begin encrypting its employee data. In still another case, a large health insurer recently alleged that computer hackers stole sensitive and confidential data from its computers. The company is suing the alleged hackers, and an investigation is ongoing to determine if personal information from the company�s 1.2 million members in four states have fallen into the wrong hands.
Data and physical package security is a concern for all companies, big or small. But by applying appropriate technologies and strategies, you can mitigate many of the security risks related to shipping data and packages.
Protect Your Data
Companies engaged in package shipping and receiving have several kinds of data that are transferred or maintained electronically and need protection, mainly carrier account numbers and customer information. Why is it important to protect a carrier account number? It�s like a credit card number. If a third party or a dishonest employee has the number, they can use it to ship packages throughout the world on your dime. I�ve heard several cases of employees using these numbers for personal shipments, including holiday packages.
Adrian Gonzalez, Director, ARC Advisory Group points out that, in addition to accessing customer account numbers and supplier information, you also do not want outsiders to develop an understanding of your overall shipping activity. This includes your origins and destinations, how frequently you ship or receive packages across different locations and the nature of the goods being shipped or received by location.
He also notes that there�s another layer of complexity that arises when making international shipments � for example, the need to screen recipients against restricted-party lists. Companies that participate in Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) should also consider how package shipping fits into the certification process.
Use Common Sense � And Your Resources
You should also pay attention to the information you present on the outside of the package. Be as discrete as possible in packaging and labeling � why alert thieves to the contents of the package?
With regard to data, never let the carrier account numbers appear on the package. If the shipper is paying the shipping costs, there is no reason for the shipper to see the account number. If the recipient is paying the shipping costs (consignee or third-party, both of which are common practices), there is still no reason for the account number to appear on the label. The electronic file transmission and carrier billing systems insure that charges are billed to the correct account. However this brings up the point that if you do allow third parties to ship using your account number (a common practice in today�s world of tight business partnerships), you must closely review tracking data and invoices to spot fraudulent use. Furthermore, monitor for unauthorized account use internally.
Gonzalez also notes that �event management� can play a role in detecting fraudulent use of carrier account numbers. �A shipping manager can be alerted via e-mail if an unauthorized user originates a shipment,� Gonzalez says. �Or, if a shipment is made to a destination not previously included in the database and no reason code is provided.�
Your system vendor, IT department and carrier can all help you protect carrier account numbers and other critical data:
            � Your system vendor can provide password and user security so that only authorized employees have access to carrier account set-up and account numbers. Password and log-on controls should be included with the system: Use them to prevent unauthorized employees from shipping packages on your account.
            � Your IT department can secure electronic access to your shipping solution and data so unauthorized users cannot get in and steal account numbers or customer data.
            � Your carriers can provide secure encrypted mechanisms for transmitting end-of-day files to the carrier systems. Also, there are carrier tools that enable �bulk tracking,� making it easier to spot fraudulent use of the account. With these tools, you can receive tracking data for all of your packages in a single file. This allows you to sort package data by destination and see if packages are going to unusual places, thus indicating unauthorized shipping by employees.
Track for Accuracy
Once packages are shipped, how can you protect the contents from falling into the wrong hands? Systems that enable package tracking � from the shipper to mail center or loading dock to the intended recipient � also beef up security.
Technology in this area has come a long way, particularly for that �last mile� of delivery between the mail center or loading dock and the package addressee. Here is an example: Donnell Coleman, assistant site manager at Sears headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and his nine-person team rely on barcode scanners and portable data collectors to deliver more then 1,500 packages per day to a 200-acre campus with seven, six-story buildings that house 6,000 employees.
Their package management system, Coleman says, ensures packages are delivered into the right hands � and he has the records to prove it. �We know exactly what department, floor and person it was delivered to,� he says.
Document with Photos
Additional developments in package management technologies are enabling better package security. For example, some package handling systems now offer barcode scanners with digital picture-taking capabilities. This function allows you to take a picture of a package, send an e-mail to someone with an image of the package attached and save the images of the package in history to view at any time. That �someone� could be the carrier�s claims administrator if you want to secure reimbursement for a damaged package. If the package is suspicious, the photos can be sent to security for review or to the addressee with a note asking if such a package was expected.
Don�t Forget Processes and the Perimeter
Gonzalez notes that good security not only depends on technology, but people, processes and infrastructure as well. Here are a few of his suggestions:
            1. Conduct background checks on shipping employees, especially if they are handling hazardous materials.
            2. Keep facilities physically secure; consider locks and requiring passkeys to enter shipping and receiving areas.
            3. Consider determining access to shipping information and capabilities based on roles (i.e., only give employees access to information that is required for their job).
Keep in mind that your vendors and carriers have a vested interest in the security of your business. Remember to seek their support as you embark on the journey toward greater security.
Johanna Boller is Director of Product Line Management for Pitney Bowes Distribution Solutions. She can be contacted at