Why Cyberattacks Should Be Concerning to Trucking

Hacker at computer
Getty Images

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

The trucking industry has improved with the use of technology, but the advancement has also increased the risk of cyberattacks.

Technology is now common to fleet operations, from offices to the vehicles.

“Cybersecurity is always a hot-button item,” Ross Froat, director of Technology and Engineering Policy at American Trucking Associations, told Transport Topics. “We’re very adamant about cybersecurity and how we can help our members.”



He said that a truck today can have more than a dozen computers onboard. They help companies do everything from tracking shipments to improving safety and communication.

“There is a lot of communication going on onboard the truck at all times,” Froat said. “How fleets have been adapting to that has been very beneficial to uptime, more freight deliveries and assurance to shippers and customers.”

Controller Area Network systems communicate with various components across a truck and help relay data to drivers and company back offices. Even some individual components often have the ability to communicate. But the more technology and interconnected systems, the more risk there is.

“Every step that the industry takes in advancing technologies, there’s a parallel step in terms of vulnerabilities and security, and the scariest things that could happen like terrorist attacks with truck ramming and things like that,” Froat added. “That’s partially the reason why we developed Fleet CyWatch.”

Fleet CyWatch coordinates with private and federal authorities to help motor carriers report internet crimes and cyberattacks. It also shares information with fleets about cyberthreats that may impact their operations.



“Some companies are prepared to handle that to some extent while others have not been concerned about it and haven’t done anything,” said Clem Driscoll, founder of the marketing and research firm C.J. Driscoll & Associates. “The level of concern is moderate at most, especially among smaller fleets.”

Driscoll added that concern about cyberattacks depends on factors such as what type of cargo the fleet carries, the fleet’s size and what its customers want.

“If they’re carrying any type of sensitive cargo, they should probably be more concerned,” Driscoll said. “Those that feel vulnerable because of what they are carrying or because their customers express concern should be doing something about it. But that’s not every trucking fleet.”

Host Seth Clevenger went to CES 2020 in Las Vegas and met with Rich Mohr of Ryder Fleet Management Solutions and Stephan Olsen of the Paccar Innovation Center to discuss how high-tech the industry has become. Listen to a snippet above, and to hear the full episode, go to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

Mark Cubine, vice president of marketing and enterprise systems at McLeod Software, instead believes that all carriers should be concerned about cyberattacks and make necessary precautions to counter risk. He warned that hackers go after big and small companies.

“You have to have knowledge, awareness and education so people don’t take the bait,” Cubine said, referring to phishing. So “they don’t click on things they shouldn’t or introduce things they shouldn’t — just being knowledgeable.”

Cubine said countering risk is a continuous process because the nature of the threat keeps changing. Companies should embrace making backups, malware protections, insurance and disaster recovery systems, he added.

“That’s step one,” he said, adding that there is also a corporate approach, including strengthening your passwords and software to prevent malware and attacks from different points. “Trucking companies often integrate software from various third-party vendors into their systems. That includes everything from electronic logging devices and transportation management systems. It is important to understand where these services are coming from.”



Scott Sutarik, vice president of commercial vehicle solutions at Geotab, said another big threat has to do with data security. “It is important that companies understand their ELD and TMS provider’s security policies to ensure that they are not leaving themselves vulnerable by investing in technology that is not secure.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity framework guidelines should be considered before fleets add software to their existing systems,
Froat said.

“Be proactive in the decision to add whatever to their network. Because once one of those systems is hacked, your system is hacked,” he said.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing: