3 cybersecurity trends and their impact on transport & logistics

Gert de Jong & Bart Atema
apr 18, 2023 · 7 min lezen Engels
Harbour transport and logistics

A cyberattack on the transport and logistics (T&L) sector can have immediate, sometimes irreversible impact. When the business operates in a supply chain, a security breach can do more than damage the company’s digital world. It can wreak havoc on the physical world assets that deliver essential services to fellow suppliers, customers, and society at large. As too many recent examples have shown, the damage is often enormous.

To stand up against the cyberthreats, T&L organizations must adopt a mission-critical mindset. This begins with an awareness of three trends that have tremendous consequences for cybersecurity today.

  • Cybercrime is booming.
  • Digital innovation leads to data hunger.
  • There’s increased pressure to be secure.

Leveraging the supply chain

Cybercrime is booming. The hackers behind them have evolved into professional criminals with mature business models. Now they belong to transnational cybercrime syndicates comprising access brokers, finance experts, negotiators, and operators as well as help desks who coordinate Bitcoin transfers and HR departments who recruit employees on the dark web. Ransomware, in particular, has risen dramatically, at a 41% growth rate as reported by IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022.

Cyberattacks can be especially devastating to the T&L sector in terms of lost time and money. As we saw when Maersk got infected with malware NotPetya in 2017, it took 10 days to reinstall the company's entire infrastructure. And that was only thanks to “a heroic effort,” said Maersk's chairman, noting that resolving such a scenario would normally take six months and adding that the recovery cost between $250 and 300 million. Further, as the 2021 ransomware hit on Bakker Logistics showed, such attacks can leverage more than a single company. Although this incident targeted a logistics provider, it is often called “the cheese hack” because the company’s downed system and consequently grounded trucks led to a shortage of cheese in Netherlands’ largest super market chain.

Feeding data hunger

Nearly every business has become a digital business. While computers may have once set traditional organizations apart from more conservative-to-change counterparts, data is now universally needed to make even marginal differences on the market. This data hunger has prompted a further integration of operational technology (OT) with information technology (IT), as it provides an automated way to extract data from operational equipment.

The more integrated these two worlds are, however, the more risk it incurs. Cyberattacks once indigenous to the IT world can now take root in the OT world. By nature, T&L organizations also have a higher dependency on OT since their duty is to move people and goods within their own premises or between points A and B. This escalates the risk. Further, these organizations tend to have a lot of assets, which results in more exposure, particularly as experienced equipment rarely meets modern security standards.

Regulatory compliance and chain conformity

Organizations are being increasingly pressured to adopt cybersecurity measures. New EU-wide regulations, such as the Network and Information Security Directive (NIS2), will have recategorized which organizations are subject to existing cybersecurity laws or are required to implement more stringent measures and enforcement. The T&L sector will feel more pressure as newly scoped sectors seek to ensure all their supply chain partners meet security and compliance standards. Meanwhile, customers of organizations affected by these regulations are becoming smarter about the risk – or reward – of working with them.

Regardless of regulations, companies understand that having secure logistics partners is key to their own organization. Even smaller, private companies and those whose remits are not formally scoped by regulations are upping their own security and expecting their suppliers to conform to the standards. Logistics partners that take care of security will thus get a competitive edge. In fact, for most businesses nowadays, working with T&L organizations is inevitable, so those with well-implemented cybersecurity measures are likely to become more attractive suppliers.

To secure T&L, prioritize the mission-critical

Regardless of how sophisticated hackers grow, how complex OT and IT become, or how tight legislation gets, T&L organizations must strategize how to protect their business. They would do well to create a roadmap guiding compliance with the new legislations, have supply chain partners clarify security requirements, and refine partnerships accordingly.

On top of building a secure baseline, they should prioritize securing what is in fact mission-critical. From there, solutions could entail separating the crown jewel applications out from the wider landscape – the chance of a hacker infiltrating via employee phishing is higher than via a small self-contained mission-critical environment, for example. In another scenario, a solution might apply an IoT edge kit to satisfy data hunger, fed from the cloud but without introducing a security risk since the kit would not be internet-exposed. Or for yet another case, rather than change an OT asset itself, a solution could be to secure the asset by altering only its infrastructure or, alternatively, by building a safe ring around the OT network. The possibilities are many and, much like the T&L sector, hold the potential of a transformational journey.

Gertde Jong

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