How Cyber Attacks are Affecting the Trucking Industry

11/13/2019 Written by: AP Transportation

Cybersecurity has become an important topic in the trucking industry, as a new age of dangerous hacking is on the rise. Imagine driving your truck down U.S. Route 1 at 70 miles per hour, listening to some Lynyrd Skynyrd with the wind blowing in your hair. Then the radio switches to another station and Despacito starts blaring through your speakers. That would be weird and you would try to turn it off, but instead the windshield wipers start spraying and flicking back and forth. It's hard to see and something's obviously wrong, so you hit the brakes. Only it's too late now, a hacker has taken control of your truck's computer and your life is in their hands. 

Threats to cybersecurity are increasing for truckers. In 2015, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek had their friend drive a Jeep Cherokee onto the highway and told him "not to panic" as they experimented with their hacking skills. The hackers took control of the dashboard functions, blasting cold air, changing the radio station and increasing the music to max volume. They were able to access the windshield wipers and turn on the wiper fluid to decrease visibility. The hackers also had control of the steering, brakes and transmission. Once the transmission was cut, the driver became too overwhelmed with the loss of control and the experiment was ended (Greenberg, 2015). What would you do if you lost complete control over your truck? What COULD you do?

Being part of a fleet is another important factor in the trucking industry. Josh Corman is the founder of I Am The Cavalry, a "global grassroots organization that is focused on issues where computer security intersects public safety and human life," (I Am The Cavalry, 2017). According to Corman, hackers may soon have the ability to shut down the computers on an entire fleet, which could obstruct roadways or destroy perishable cargo. But taking control of vehicles' computers is not the only threat to trucking's cybersecurity. Corman thinks truckers are in danger of having their onboard navigation systems reprogrammed, tricking them into areas where their cargo can be stolen or held for ransom (Eisenstein, 2016).

Ransomware has been on the rise in cybersecurity attacks. On June 27, a container ship’s computer system was hacked, causing the Port of Los Angeles to shut down for five days. The malware, called NotPetya, attacked the company’s three other global businesses, making necessary data to their daily operations unavailable and forcing them to reconstruct their information technology systems. In the end, it cost the company between $200,000,000 and $300,000,000. In addition to this company, an estimate of 7,000 companies were hacked worldwide (Leovy, 2017).

To combat these cybersecurity threats, vehicle manufacturers have begun to hire white hat companies. White hats are hackers who use their knowledge and skills to uncover software vulnerabilities for companies. Although companies are constantly trying to create better cybersecurity, the numbers of attacks are still on the rise for transportation (Eisenstein, 2016). These dangers of cybersecurity may get worse before they get better. 

Being informed of, and prepared for, these types of threats is a key component of a fleet safety program. Contact the AssuredPartners Transportation specialists for help implementing or reviewing your fleet safety and risk management programs that help protect your company.

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