Even on the road, you can’t outrun a hacker. As technology plays an ever-greater role in the shipping and logistics industry, bad actors have found new ways to infiltrate every part of a freight company, from the headquarters to the trucks on the highway. Here’s how trucking companies can protect themselves against cybercrime.
How are hackers getting in?
Shipping goods worldwide — or even just to another state — requires a lot of communication. There are different time zones, languages and store hours to contend with. As a result, it’s imperative that everyone makes thorough plans and continues communicating with each other throughout the shipping process.
To do this, the trucking industry relies on GPS technology, transportation management systems and electronic data exchange, a system for one business to send documents to another. Trucking companies also collect sensitive information — such as their partners’ names, phone numbers, addresses and bank account details — to make shipping possible. Since most of these processes happen online, threat actors can infiltrate the system in many ways, including:
Phishing: This classic cyberattack involves tricking people into divulging information. For example, hackers might send freight workers an email asking them to update their health insurance info for the company. When they type in the information, the hackers steal it and use it to their advantage.
Malware: Hackers upload a virus, often hidden within an email link, to a company network. The virus allows the threat actors to see what’s happening on the system and steal people’s data.
Physical attacks: All it takes is for someone to leave a laptop or phone unattended at a rest stop for a few minutes, and a hacker can upload malware or steal data directly from the device.
These crimes aren’t just theoretical. On October 3, 2023, trucking company Estes Express confirmed on X, formerly Twitter, that a cyberattack had taken down its IT infrastructure. The organization has continued to pick up and deliver freight during the attack, but the issue is ongoing.
In 2021, Colonial Pipeline suffered a ransomware attack and shut down for nearly a week. The fuel pipeline giant had to pay attackers $4.4 million to get up and running again.
How the freight trucking industry can prevent cyberattacks
Companies can take several steps to protect themselves against a data breach or ransomware attack, including:
Think of an unsegmented computer network as a house with no doors. Once inside, you can easily pass through every room, stealing anything you want or going through people’s belongings.
Network segmentation divides the home’s interior into chambers with locked doors. An intruder may be able to break into one room, but they’ll only be able to access whatever is in that single room, not the whole house.
Network segmentation divides a computer network into separate parts, making it harder for hackers to breach the system as a whole. Freight trucking companies can use it to protect their computer system against data breaches.
Securing connected devices
Internet of Things (IoT) devices are physical objects that connect to the internet — think smart fridges, Wi-Fi-enabled cameras or coffee makers that learn your morning habits over time. IoT devices make our lives easier, but they also invite security risks.
Some trucking companies use IoT devices to track shipments. To secure these devices, update their software and hardware regularly. Turning on automatic updates makes this process easier. It’s also wise to protect IoT devices with strong passwords and encrypt them to make their data harder to read.
Managing third-party vendors
Relying on vendors is necessary but can lead to security problems. According to Reuters, 92% of surveyed U.S. companies have experienced a cybersecurity breach that started with a vendor, making it crucial for trucking companies to manage their third-party data security.
A company can list all the third-party vendors it works with and conduct a risk assessment of each one.
A risk assessment involves gathering evidence, taking steps to mitigate risks, discussing security vulnerabilities with a vendor or even cutting ties with the third party completely. Vendors should always sign contracts that outline their security responsibilities.
Lastly, monitoring and updating the risk assessment as needed over time is important.
The most critical aspect of cybersecurity is education. Many data breaches happen due to employee error, such as when people inadvertently open a phishing email or click on a link containing malware.
Freight trucking companies should teach all their workers — those in the office and on the road — how to practice good cybersecurity. They should stress the importance of having strong passwords, only opening emails from trusted senders and not leaving devices unattended.
Staying one step ahead
The freight trucking sector is a tempting industry for hackers. It has everything they want — money, personal data and countless computer systems that offer a way in.
Fortunately, shipping companies can fend off cyberattacks by taking precautions like securing IoT devices, managing third-party vendors and segmenting their networks. Above all, employee education can prevent hackers from getting a foothold in the network, allowing the freight industry to keep on trucking.