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Preparing for Cyber Attack: Logistics & Transportation Cybersecurity

March 2, 2022 Kevin Baxter


Cyber attacks have been on the rise just about everywhere, making the need for cybersecurity vital - including among logistics and transportation companies. With tensions rising in areas of the world associated with cyber attacks, logistics and transportation companies must take cybersecurity especially seriously as they can be an attractive, high-impact target. The most high profile of these cyber threats of late has been ransomware, which encrypts a company's files until it pays a designated ransom - which can be thousands or even millions of dollars.  And the threat is especially great for small to mid-sized businesses, as studies have shown nearly two-thirds of those attacked close within six months.

Logistics and Transportation Cyber Attack Examples

Because of their rising prevalence, there are plenty of examples of cyber attacks affecting logistics and transportation companies. The most recent at the time of this writing involves Expeditors International - the world's sixth-largest freight forwarder. Expeditors reportedly shut down its computer systems after an attack limited its ability to manage customs and distribution activities, and the Seattle-based company said most of its operations would be limited. While Expeditors did not explicitly say it was a ransomware attack, the business did say it would restore systems from backups, an indicator of that attack type as it makes files inaccessible.

Plenty of other recent examples of logistics and transportation cyber attacks exist as well, including IT infrastructure at ports in Belgium and the Netherlands which affected operations in February. And Hellman Worldwide Logistics suffered its own apparent ransomware attack in December, which also led to clients being targeted with fraudulent communication. Looking a bit further back, Maersk famously suffered a major attack at the hands of NotPetya ransomware. And three others among the world's largest carriers were infected by ransomware over the past five years.

Each one of these attacks on larger organizations has trickle down impacts as well. When their operations are impacted, not only are shippers hurt, but so too are others involved in supply chain activities, like third party logistics providers, drayage companies, railroads, trucking companies and more. Some of these impacted companies - many of whom are small to mid-sized businesses - can suffer great financial harm in these cases, and they're certainly not immune to cyber risk themselves. Because logistics and transportation is such an inter-connected industry, any one company faced with an attack can bring freight movement to a screeching halt.

Cybersecurity Tips for Logistics and Transportation

As with any industry, cybersecurity for logistics and transportation companies begins at the top with the acknowledgement that cyber threats exist. Logistics and transportation companies deal with their own particular challenges, with users often widespread, away from controlled networks and heavy interaction with outside partners. Addressing those issues requires secure remote access and network segmentation among other solutions. On top of that, here are five steps that can vastly improve a company's cybersecurity posture (whether in logistics and transportation or not), including:

  • Training employees to be aware of threats, and not to fall for malicious emails, links and attachments that could open the door to your network
  • Require strong passwords and multi-factor authentication
  • Keep all software up to date to ensure vulnerabilities are patched
  • Invest in security hardware and software, like firewalls, endpoint protection, email security, and more
  • Backup files on an ongoing basis to be able to restore them quickly in the event of a successful ransomware attack

All of these steps are intertwined to some degree and start with a philosophical commitment from company leadership, backed by tangible investment.   

Have questions about the logistics and transportation industry, or need help coordinating your shipping needs?  Let us know, and we'll be happy to get back with you quickly to assist.

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