As the trucking industry enters the era of connectivity, it is also facing increasing cybersecurity risks. Every new high-tech in-vehicle gadget becomes a potential target for hackers who, just like the industry, are getting more sophisticated and highly connected.
Cybersecurity for Trucks
Needless to say, technology has been one of the main reasons for the improvement in transportation in the past few years.
- It provides driving assistance that allows people who were previously unable to drive to feel comfortable behind the wheel.
- Clean energy technologies have been slowly gaining popularity and are now actively helping the trucking industry to become environmentally friendly.
- Vehicle fleet operations are being optimized thanks to software and tools that improve maintainability throughout a vehicle’s life cycle.
- Geo-location tracking is also a feature that is becoming popular with the trucking industry. It helps reduce costs and improve the productivity of one’s fleet.
- Data management for driver activity leads to significant improvement of the working conditions in long-haul trucking.
Yet, all of these benefits could disappear in the click of a button from the other side of the world or the nearby suburban town, at the next exit.
A phenomenon that develops too quickly is also prone to pitfalls. Wireless networks and telematics have become too sophisticated, but many still lack basic password protection. Experts say it is entirely possible for anyone to find a way to control trucks, public buses or ships from the internet.
Many trucking companies find it very tempting to adopt a new technology that will help them decrease costs and avoid crashes. For example, engines now have sensors for monitoring performance and predicting potential mechanical problems. Similarly, video monitoring helps to warn drivers when there is a chance of collision.
All of these high-tech systems are great for managing both fleets and drivers. But the problem is that they increasingly collect and send over the air an enormous amount of data.
Each device and system increases the “surface area” that allows hackers to get into a truck’s system. Attacks could range from simply creating chaos and disrupting the flow of activities to gaining profit from selling information, especially in events of data theft. The consequences of cyber attacks can range from the exposure of sensitive commercial details to the paralysis of whole fleets on the roads. Moreover, the loss of control of a truck could put many lives at risk.
The hacker’s power
In the world of technology, the creation of something good always comes along with something potentially dangerous, with equal power. If not even worse. Hence, for every tech feature, there will be someone who has either found a loophole in the system or is purposefully creating one to disrupt the whole organizational process.
Just like the search engine Shodan. Hackers use this powerful tool to scan the surroundings for internet-connected devices. Hackers also rely on Telematics Gateway Units (TGUs) which give them remote access over the cellular connection. These devices are smaller than an Internet router. They could fit the mechanics and technology of a whole truck in just a box. All you need is to insert your SD card and press a button to wipe out a whole fleet. And here is the scary part: last month only there were over 700 such devices installed in vehicles. This leads us to the idea that hackers are completely free to gain control of any vehicle running the open device.
There hasn’t been a single known hacking incident involving long-haul trucks so far. Yet, officials know that the likelihood of such events is increasing with the adoption of new technologies. DARPA has already taken serious steps to fighting cyber threats, including getting younger professionals and investing in cyber research.
Fleet owners should also take the issue to heart. Vehicle risk assessment of electronic architecture should take place regularly. Suspicious applications should be isolated from the vehicle network. It’s important that security measures be adapted to the systems of vehicles from the past as well.
We all accept that technology is the road to the future. Yet, it is the balance between the great unknown and the familiar safe that will take us there.