Computer hacker

One of the biggest ongoing threats facing trucking and logistics companies, as well as the transportation industry as a whole, is the massive increase in cybercrime over the past few years. Between the years 2017 and 2022, the industry experienced a 400 percent increase in cyberattacks, making transportation companies among the most common targets for these types of attacks.

And criminals aren’t just targeting the industry’s largest or most well-known companies, either. Small- and medium-sized businesses across all sectors are just as likely to become victims of a cyberattack. Though these breaches don’t get the same kind of attention as attacks on larger companies, the success rate for hackers is much higher because smaller companies often lack robust security measures. 

Why is the transportation industry in particular such a frequent target and how can you keep your company protected? Read on to learn more.

Why Trucking Companies Are Targets

The trucking and transportation industry is a critical part of the U.S. economy, with trucking companies serving as an essential link in the supply chain. Trucks are responsible for moving 70 percent of our nation’s freight to 80 percent of its communities, carrying everything from essential goods to high-priced luxury items. And like every other industry, the transportation sector is growing increasingly dependent on technology to simplify day-to-day tasks and increase efficiency. 

Naturally, that means the methods used by hackers are constantly evolving, meaning cybersecurity professionals have to continually adapt their security measures. For smaller companies, it can be hard to know where to start, how to keep up with current best practices or even to implement security and training protocols at all. This means there are some companies that offer little to no cybersecurity efforts at all.

The importance of trucking companies to the U.S. economy, as well as the potential for criminals to steal high-value cargo and customer data, make them enticing as potential victims for hackers. Add in the fact that many employees and drivers lack an adequate level of training for identifying, avoiding and reporting cyber scams, and it’s no surprise that transportation and logistics companies are becoming more common targets.

Most Common Transportation Cybersecurity Attacks

As mentioned, the reason that transportation cybersecurity attacks are becoming more frequent and widespread is because most companies are dependent on technology to run their business. Unfortunately, even as that technology continues to evolve and companies become more diligent in their protocols and training, criminals are always trying to stay one step ahead. Even as their tactics become more sophisticated, however, data shows that criminals still use a mix of old and new strategies to commit cybersecurity attacks. 

Some of the most common methods that trucking companies should be aware of include:

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams have been around since the 1990s, and it’s still the most common way that data breaches occur. Criminals will send fraudulent emails, text messages and voice calls pretending to be someone a victim trusts, likely an authority figure within your organization, in order to get them to take some kind of action. 

Some think that phishing attempts are obvious to spot, and sometimes they are (like when a fake prince asks for your bank routing number). However, some sophisticated hackers are capable of creating fake emails that look nearly indistinguishable from normal company emails. All it takes is for one person within your company to fall for the scam. 

Once the breach occurs, companies risk having their systems infected with ransomware or other types of malicious software. This can lead to businesses losing their data, having their credentials and accounts compromised or worse. 

Ransomware Attacks

Speaking of ransomware, this type of cyberattack has become a growing threat to trucking and transportation companies. Ransomware is used to block an individual or organization’s access to their own computer system. Scammers will encrypt the system’s data, files and applications and prevent users from entering until a ransom is paid.  

These types of attacks can devastate companies financially. Authorities recommend not paying criminals the money in cases of ransomware attacks, as there is no guarantee that the criminals will give the data back once paid. However, many smaller trucking companies do pay their attackers to avoid having their data sold or leaked, or to minimize the risk of damaging their reputation and losing their connections to large supply chains.

Direct Attacks on Trucks

With trucks themselves becoming more technologically advanced, there’s concern that hackers will start looking for new ways to exploit the vulnerabilities in commercial trucking systems. Specifically, experts have pointed out that the cybersecurity gaps in electronic logging devices (ELDs) could actually allow hackers to remotely control or disable individual trucks or even fleets. This is a huge safety and financial risk for both trucking companies and drivers. Not only can hackers potentially steal data from the truck, but they could also try to disable the truck to steal the vehicle, steal cargo or disrupt supply chains. 

Nearly all commercial vehicles in the United States are required to have ELDs in order to track driver service hours. ELD manufacturers have started addressing these concerns, but many devices currently in use have critical vulnerabilities. As of now, the best recourse is to contact your ELD provider and ask about their cybersecurity practices, as well as to reach out to fleet maintenance professionals if drivers notice erratic performance or activity with their vehicle. 

How is AI Impacting Cybersecurity?

While artificial intelligence and machine learning have become more prevalent and accepted by trucking companies, businesses across all industries are still trying to understand all the ways it can be used. What’s clear so far is that AI can be both helpful and harmful depending on who is using it and what their purpose is. 

Just like how AI can be used to help fleets optimize routes or predict when trucks will need maintenance, hackers can use it to send trucks to different locations, disable predictive maintenance to cause breakdowns or help develop malware. Further, when considering the effectiveness of phishing scams, hackers could use AI-generated content to make fake texts, emails and websites even more convincing.

How Can Fleets Protect Themselves?

As you can see, there are a lot of ways for trucking companies to fall victim to a cybersecurity attack. And these attacks are only getting more frequent and more complex. Drivers and fleet managers already have so much on their plates that cybersecurity can sometimes feel like an afterthought. That’s exactly what criminals are banking on, however. 

The transportation industry’s importance to the U.S. supply chain, combined with inadequate training, is why trucking and logistics companies are such a prime target. They also know that trucking companies are becoming more integrated and storing their most sensitive data in a singular location. 

That means it’s more important than ever for fleet owners and managers to stay on top of these trends, enhance their cybersecurity infrastructure and ensure all employees receive regular training. 

Other things you can do to address your company’s cybersecurity issues include:

  • Stress to employees the importance of always following cybersecurity best practices.
  • Have employees create stronger passwords and change them regularly (e.g., every 90 days)
  • Encourage staff to report any emails or texts that seem suspicious (e.g., spelling errors, random requests from authority figures, incorrect email addresses, etc.)
  • Emphasize the importance of not clicking on any suspicious links or visiting unfamiliar websites.
  • Develop a thorough incident response plan that provides instructions for what to do in the event of a cyberattack.
  • Update your company’s software, applications and operations systems on a regular cadence.
  • Regularly conduct security risk assessments to check for issues or vulnerabilities.
  • Use multifactor authentication and enable encryption for Wi-Fi-connected networks.
  • Install immutable backups as a way to recover data (make sure these files cannot be altered or deleted).

Last but not least, communication is just as important as education when it comes to preventing or mitigating cybersecurity attacks. Companies with fully integrated trucking software have the advantage of knowing where everyone is supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be there. Ensure that drivers are careful about any information they share related to cargo or routes, and that they maintain regular communication with dispatch in case anything happens on the road.

Additionally, encourage employees or drivers to come forward if they believe they’ve made a mistake. All it takes is one lapse in judgement to put an entire company at risk. Those lapses can happen to anyone, but employees might feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit they fell for a scam. If employees feel comfortable admitting a mistake right away, however, you could potentially stop or mitigate the risk before it’s too late. 

Get more insights about technology and software trends in the trucking industry by visiting our blog or schedule a demo of our fully integrated trucking software.