Cybersecurity in Logistics: Keeping Transportation and Shipping Safe

John Latherow

13 June 2018

As data security becomes an increasing focus around the world, we examine the state of cybersecurity in logistics and how shippers can safeguard against potential threats.

Riding the tidal wave of new and constantly improving logistics technology requires navigating the waters of cybersecurity. Cyber-attacks or cyber-terrorism may seem unlikely to affect transportation and logistics. But, in reality, hackers are opportunistic and will seize on data vulnerabilities in any industry. Cybersecurity in logistics is now an area for focus.

Facing the facts: Cybersecurity is a vulnerable space in logistics

Data security is the #1 aspect of cybersecurity. And, unfortunately, we receive constant notifications of data breaches and reports of high-dollar ransomware these days.

Protecting proprietary and customer information is critical for shippers. And avoiding cybersecurity threats in logistics presents complex problems. But don’t be tempted to put your head in the sand. While you can’t just turn off the internet, there are lots of ways to secure commercial shipping and transportation data.

First, think like a hacker

Considering what’s behind a cyber-attack can help you prepare.

Hackers are often trying to disrupt the systems they interfere with or hack for financial gain. They may hold information hostage or interfere with the ability to deposit funds in an account. “White-hat” hackers may be motivated to identify vulnerabilities before they are exploited.

The bottom line is that all hackers seek to control or expose confidential or proprietary information.

Know your vulnerability points

In the logistics industry, employees, systems, and software all present vulnerable points. Let’s take a brief look at each:

1. Employees

Employees need regular training in avoiding hacking attempts via email as well as phone. If you educate all of the users on your system to delete suspicious emails and never open attachments from unknown users, you are creating a first line of defense. Remember: valid emails can always be re-sent.

2. Systems

If you haven’t moved to a TMS, here’s a compelling argument in favor of the upgrade.

Some partners in the logistics supply chain are still using fax. But unfortunately, sticking with outmoded systems is not playing it safe. Faxes often contain sensitive information and are relatively easy to hack.

Switching to a TMS or making an upgrade may seem overwhelming, so check out our tips on how to find the right TMS to make a smooth transition.

An enterprise data warehouse, or a secondary secure database, offers a way to keep your data secure yet accessible if the main database is hacked.

3. Software

Software is where you need to trust your partners. Ideally you will be working with systems that offer SSL certificates, are password protected, and use VPN. Using an internet interface to log on and manage transportation logistics can be safely managed.

When inquiring what sort of protections are in place for customer and business information, your 3PL or other software partners should have specifics ready to share. They need to be on top of the newest types of APTs and offer SSL with password-protection dual authentication.

Prepare for recovery

It pays to look beyond security and into recovery. In the event that you are hacked, what’s left behind? Hacks often delete information, compounding the pain of a cybersecurity breach.

A good TMS will offer backup protections. An enterprise data warehouse, or a secondary secure database, offers a way to keep your data secure yet accessible if the main database is hacked.

By asking the questions above, you should have great trust in your 3PL or software provider — but consider an enterprise data option as a way to reduce disruption.

When investing in logistics technology — trust but verify

Just because you hear about healthcare and financial hacks in the news doesn’t mean hackers will pass up an opportunity to exploit transportation and logistics data.

Cybersecurity in logistics starts with you and your employees, but don’t accept anything other than vigilance from your partners. You should feel confident that partners have identified any vulnerabilities and that they offer the best in protection and recovery.

John Latherow

John is the VP of Technology at Evans Transportation.

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