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Strengthening Fleet Security Against Ransomware Attacks

DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY IS A GAME-CHANGER FOR FLEET OPERATIONS.

As beneficial as digital technology is, it also opens fleets up to cyber risks they may not have had to deal with before. Investing in logistics cybersecurity is becoming increasingly crucial as a result.

The threat of ransomware attacks is particularly concerning. While you may not have heard much about ransomware targeting fleets, it’ll undoubtedly become a more prominent risk as fleet digitization ramps up.

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RANSOMWARE ATTACKS

To understand why fleet security is so important, you must first grasp the weight of the ransomware problem. These attacks — which steal or encrypt sensitive data, demanding a ransom payment to get it back — are the fastest-growing type of cybercrime today. They’re also remarkably damaging, even if you refuse to pay the ransom.

Ransomware attacks try to hit businesses where it hurts, often locking up mission-critical data or systems. As a result, they can bring some of your operations to a halt until you resolve the issue, resulting in high costs from lost productivity. Depending on the kind of data at stake, they can also lead to more direct losses.

The transportation and logistics sectors are particularly vulnerable to these threats. Transport businesses experienced 44 ransomware attacks in 2023, which may not seem like a lot, but that number is steadily growing. Fleets are often ideal targets for cybercriminals because the industry isn’t as experienced in digital technology, making it less likely to have advanced protections.

IMPROVE FLEET SECURITY

Automotive cybersecurity must grow as quickly, if not more so, than digitization in the industry. Once you recognize the need for this change, you can follow these five steps to protect your fleet against ransomware and other cyber threats.

1. Teach All Employees Safe Security Practices

Employee training is the first and most crucial step in logistics cybersecurity. Most attacks stem in part from human error, so teaching drivers and office staff a few security best practices can go a long way.

One specific area to address is spotting phishing attempts. Forty-five percent of ransomware attacks start as phishing, where attackers pretend to be someone else to trick users into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware. You can avoid that by knowing telltale warning signs in a message like unusual urgency, strange email domains, spelling errors and vague greetings.

In general, employees should never click on an unsolicited link or give away any sensitive information over e-mail or text. Everyone should also use strong, unique passwords to access company systems and turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA) when available.

2. Secure Telematics Systems

A fleet-specific step to emphasize is to secure any telematics solutions your vehicles use. Internet of Things (IoT) systems like telematics are common targets for hackers because they transmit valuable data and often lack strong built-in protections.

Securing your telematics solutions starts with choosing safer devices. Look for options that encrypt their data by default, update automatically and enable MFA. It may be hard to tell if a device is secure now, but the upcoming IoT labeling certification will make it easier to identify telematics devices that meet higher standards.

After choosing a safer IoT system, you must use these devices with security in mind. Encrypt all telematics data to render it unreadable to hackers who may intercept it. Change all passwords away from the defaults, turn on MFA if devices support it and update everything regularly to ensure it has the latest protections.

3. Use Up-to-Date Security Software

While smart behavior can stop many attacks, fleet security is incomplete without professional services. Third-party security software like antivirus tools and network monitoring solutions are necessary for modern fleets.

You may be hesitant to use this software because it’s an extra expense at the end of the day. However, ransomware stole $760 million from businesses in 2021 alone. Preventing losses like that more than justifies these services’ costs, especially because you can’t achieve the same level of protection on your own.

Which security software you should choose depends on your needs, budget and what’s available. Compare a few options, looking for security providers with fleet-specific experience and tools if possible. Specific features to look for include anti-phishing filters, automatic malware scans, data encryption and anti-ransomware tools. Once you download this software, remember to keep it up-to-date to avoid any security gaps.

4. Keep Backups of Critical Data

Backups are another crucial step in protecting against ransomware attacks. Extra copies of your sensitive information won’t stop an attack, but they do minimize its damage. There’s no temptation to pay a ransom to restore data when you have backup copies you can use instead.

Secure backup practices aren’t always as straightforward as they seem. You’ll quickly run into storage issues if you create a separate backup every time you update a file and the safest way to store each backup isn’t always clear. Automated backup systems are the solution, as they can weigh these complex factors more accurately and minimize human error.

In general, you should have at least two copies of every mission-critical file in at least two separate storage methods — one online and one offline, for example. Remember to secure these backups, too. Over 93 percent of ransomware attacks specifically target backups, so it’s best to encrypt and restrict access permissions to these files.

5. Have a Response Plan

Regardless of how strong your logistics cybersecurity strategy is, you also need an emergency response plan. Cybercrime moves quickly and the potential costs are too high to assume you’ll always be safe.

Backups are an important part of this plan, but they’re not a complete strategy on their own. You also need a formal step-by-step process for how to use these backups to restore any affected data. Similarly, you should have protocols for how to communicate the incident, who to contact and who’s responsible for which parts of getting back online.

Review this plan at least once a year to make sure it’s still relevant as you use more digital technologies and cybersecurity best practices change. Remember, cybersecurity is a constantly evolving field, so what’s safe today may not be tomorrow.

LOGISTICS CYBERSECURITY

As fleets embrace newer tech, fleet security will become a bigger concern. Ransomware gangs are taking note of this sector and its increasingly vulnerable data, so it’s time for organizations within it to do the same. Ransomware’s growth is concerning, but you can stay safe if you follow these steps. Review your fleet’s cybersecurity posture today to protect your business.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Newton has eight years of creating logistics and supply chain articles under her belt. She loves helping people stay informed about industry trends. Her work in Global Trade Magazine and Parcel showcases her ability to identify newsworthy stories. When Emily is not writing, she enjoys building Lego sets with her husband.

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