Cybersecurity Strategies for the Logistics Industry

Date: 15 May 2024

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According to latest estimates, the global logistics market is worth roughly $7.98 trillion. This itself makes it an appealing target for criminals and malicious threat actors. There’s so much to steal and, if you ever want to incapacitate your opponents (regardless of whether we’re talking about the business world, warfare, or even sports), you have to aim for their logistics.  

In the modern hyper-connected world of the 21st century, there are even more threats and most of them come from the digital world. With that in mind, you need to learn how to integrate cybersecurity techniques with up-and-coming technologies in order to protect your logistics business. In this article, we cover the top five suggestions for the same.

Top Cybersecurity Strategies to Protect your Logistics Business

#1. Protection from Web Scraping

The first step in any logistics system is the website. A person who plans to order will either place an order right away or check your products to compare them with others providing the same product/service. So, your products, your layout, and your “order/buy” button are the first gateway to your logistics business. 

Now, many with malicious intent will use underhanded techniques to gain a competitive edge. Logistics starts with suppliers, and one way to discover which suppliers have access to the best prices is to use a method known as web scraping

Generally speaking, this method is frowned upon by the online community and sometimes even penalised by browsers and sites (sometimes even internet providers). Hackers usually use tools like VPNs to conduct web scraping.  The concept is simple: It would take you hours upon hours to check out all the sites of potential suppliers and competitors, skim through them, and enter the data you find into a table to be later analysed.

Bots, on the other hand, can crawl up the system and scrape (copy) the code. With today’s analytical systems (powered by AI technology), the data no longer has to be structured manually in order to be analysed. 

Why does web scraping hurt you?

First of all, it may overload your system. While scraping, these “inquisitors” want to know how your system acts in general, which means that you’ll be bombarded with a huge number of requests (far greater than you anticipated). This may cause your system to crash. 

Other than that, you have all sorts of data privacy and security risks, as well as intellectual property concerns at play here. So, one of the first things you have to do is implement appropriate anti-scraping technologies. One of them, that you probably know of, is CAPTCHA. 

CAPTCHA can deter bots because they require actions that are difficult for bots to execute but relatively easy for humans. You can also implement Rate Limiting - This involves setting up rate limits to restrict the number of requests a user can make within a certain time frame.

You can also put user-agent restriction in place. By checking the user-agent strings in HTTP requests, a server can block access to known web crawlers or bots. Dynamic Content is another popular method of protection against web scraping. Changing the structure of your website dynamically makes it harder for scrapers to adapt to a consistent pattern for scraping data.

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#2. Introducing penetration testing 

The logistics system operates on so much IP, and it would be a disaster if some of this information were to leak. Your route, state of your vehicles, work order details, and more comprise information that your entire business structure operates on. It’s what determines your operational costs and your business efficiency. You simply can’t allow competitors to get their hands on it. 

One of the ways to check how secure your system is to engage in penetration testing. This concept, also known as ethical hacking, is one of the most efficient ways to put your online presence into a simulation of a real hacking attack. What you do is hire a white-hat hacker (someone who uses their hacking skills for good) in order to try and breach your system and steal your data. This process shows you how secure or insecure your systems are and how prone to hacking you really are.  

This is done by professionals using a special scanner and vulnerability management tool, which should help you identify and highlight all the weaknesses in your system. This way, you can systematically improve each of these points. 

It’s your responsibility to protect this sensitive data (as a legal requirement), but it’s also in your best interest. This keeps the trust of your clients high and gives your company the credibility boost that it cannot stay in business without. 

With the right penetration testing methodology, you’ll be able to prevent:

  • Financial losses
  • Operational disruptions
  • Data breaches
  • Supply chain vulnerabilities

Each of these would put your company under significant duress. Regardless of the cost of the penetration testing process, you’re preventing a far bigger expense in the form of a cyber attack. 

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#3. Electric Vehicle System Security

One of the biggest selling points of electric vehicles in fleets is the fact that you get access to superior analytics. Even longer charging times, range anxiety, and high vehicle acquisition costs cannot offset the benefits of the advancement in electric vehicle software. A perfect example of this is Fortescue battery intelligence, which gives fleet managers and drivers far greater insight into the capacities and performance of their vehicles than was ever before available. 

But remember, the first massive cybersecurity threat comes to you via your charging infrastructure. Unlike gas stations, charging stations are on a network, which means that they’re exposed to cyber attacks. In theory, the charging process could be manipulated to cause delays or even harm vehicles. 

The biggest problem with this is the fact that these networks are outside of your control and, therefore, it’s impossible to protect against these threats. 

Another threat is the vehicle-to-grid system (V2G). Modern EVs are designed to return unused energy to the grid; however, this could endanger both the functionality of the vehicle and cause a risk to the stability and security of the grid. 

Onboard diagnostics is one of the most problematic areas because they are so hard to track. A malicious party could easily manipulate the data only so much that they corrupt it without making it too obvious (and easy to detect). 

Regularly scheduled updates to the vehicle software are vital for the efficiency of the system. 

Needless to say, all of these problems can be (if not solved, then alleviated) by the use of proper fleet management software; however, these tools will have to be enhanced for electric vehicles. The integration of proper battery intelligence will also be necessary, so be on the lookout for these integrations while picking your fleet management tools.

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#4. Abide by the latest guidelines

The logistics industry is not some obscure field that always lacks materials and guidelines. If anything, it’s one of the driving forces of the industry, which is why even major organisations like NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) are always updating their guidelines to help fleet managers and organisers get ahead of malicious online parties.

One of the key components is improving communication amongst all parties involved. This is important because the supply chain is everyone’s concern and very often a data breach or cyber attack occurs due to a weak link in the supply chain. The better the communication, the easier it is to identify problems in time and resolve them before they escalate. 

This also encourages developing procedures to manage exposure to security risks. The fact is that you can never completely prevent third-party attacks. The best you can do is try to minimise the risks that are arising from the supply chain and mitigate some of the potential damage. In other words, you must always be reducing your exposure and have an incident response plan ready for the worst case scenario. 

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#5. Insider threats

The biggest challenge of integrating cybersecurity measures into the logistics system is insider threats. 

Why is this so problematic? 

Well, you’re digging the trenches and erecting walls (metaphorically speaking), while the enemy is still on the inside. We’re talking about people who have access to all the information, devices, and licenses that you’re trying to protect. 

What good is the best antivirus system if someone deliberately installs ransomware on a company computer? What good is protecting the GPS or all your vehicles? Does the person, that you should be worried about, have their own account with access to all this data? 

There are a few ways to protect yourself from this:

  • Better employee screening
  • More rigorous access control
  • Segmentation of network data
  • Monitoring and logging
  • Regular audits
  • Behavioural analytics

An important point to note here is that it’s not always malice. You also have to protect your logistical chain from negligence or ignorance of your own staff. Very often, an insider threat may come, not from a malicious employee but one who inadvertently clicked on a suspicious link or opened a phishing email. 

The logistics industry is always a major target

The logistics industry is worth trillions, which means that there’s always something to gain by attacking it. This is why you have to be extra vigilant and responsible. Protecting your logistics means protecting your business, and there are no two ways about it. First, you need to identify all the threats, test your system for effectiveness, and reevaluate what constitutes a modern fleet. Then, you need to look for advice from cybersecurity experts on the matter, and, implement the guidance and recommendations with agility. 

Srdjan GombarAbout the Author: Srdjan Gombar

Expert content writer, published author, and amateur boxer, Srdjan has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language & Literature and is passionate about technology, pop culture, and self-improvement. In his free time, he spends time reading, watching movies, and playing Super Mario Bros with his son. 

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