Picture the scene. You’re driving a truck along a busy road, when suddenly the engine cuts out without warning. In a cab packed with technology, there were no red lights and no warning signs that something was about to happen.
Now, you are sitting in an immobile truck with traffic building up behind you. And then your manager lets you know they’ve just received a message demanding 20,000 in Bitcoin.
It sounds unlikely, but as we move towards a more ‘plugged in’ trucking industry, truck makers, regulators and fleets need to make cybersecurity a key priority. If they don’t, vulnerabilities in every truck built in the past 25 years is at risk.
Almost everything in modern trucking (the cab, the trailer, the tyre and the freight itself) is designed to collect, transmit and accept a range of data. And there are plenty of people (aka hackers) who are more than happy to exploit any weakness or vulnerabilities they can detect.
Cybersecurity is no longer confined to the IT department. It needs to be a consideration across an entire business. But if cybersecurity is to be effective, the systems being used to defend against cyber threats need to be more robust. According to research, 70% of businesses have made investment in IT security technology that was not successfully deployed.
In June last year, the shipping giant Maersk fell victim to hackers, and trucking could be next on the list of hackers’ targets. The truth is, the more complex a system, the harder it is to secure. Think about the complexity of today’s global supply chains and it’s easy to see why trucking might be considered ‘easy’ prey.
Of course, the question on my lips (and I assume everyone else’s too) is why bother? Whether using a truck to cause damage or make money (through a ransom payment, for example), there are plenty of people who might decide to hack a truck.
With the right skills, a prankster could use a truck to demonstrate they are smarter than everyone else. There are also the hacktivists who want to make a social or political point. And let’s not forget the hackers who simply want to find out whether or not they can do it.
Traditionally, cybercrime is driven by the desire to access data for identity and financial theft. So far, this kind of activity hasn’t really affected trucking, but that’s not to say the threat isn’t there.
Trucks carry a range of cargo – some of it highly valuable. Currently, cargo thefts take place the old-fashioned way, but as trucks become increasingly connected, hackers will be looking for ways to make thefts easier, more efficient and more accessible.
Chris Sandberg is vice president of IT for fleet mobility and mobile communications systems provider PeopleNet, and he doesn’t mince his words. He states that cybersecurity needs to “be viewed as a survival situation; act as if someone is always trying to take you out.”
He adds, “nothing can be completely secure.”
Perhaps it’s time the trucking industry took heed of this warning and made cybersecurity the number one priority moving forward. I wouldn’t want to be that truck driver stranded without warning on a busy road. Would you?