The Importance of Cybersecurity in Logistics


Logistics is the place where the digital meets the material, and this makes for incredibly rich soil for valuable data stores to bloom. It also makes them a prime target for ransomware attacks, data breaches, and other attacks. 

A cyberattack can tie up business for weeks or months, during which orders aren’t being fulfilled, client trust is being lost, and perishable goods spoil on the shelf. A cyberattack can also compromise the hardware of your facilities, misfile orders, and do irreparable harm to your physical plant. This is an immense loss of profit and can ripple out to cause shortages that send ripples throughout the economic system. These risks should make cybersecurity in the logistics industry a primary priority. 

Understanding Cybersecurity Risks in the Logistics Industry

Cybersecurity is the system of practices and tools that is used to prevent unlicensed use of your systems and data. It involves using cybersecurity programs to detect threats, securing physical networks, and creating a culture of awareness about potential avenues for cyber threats. 

Common Risks for Logistics Cybersecurity

The most common cyberattack is actually social in nature. People will send emails pretending to be vendors that the company uses, clients, or management in order to entice employees to click links or open files that give access to attackers in a practice called phishing. Alternatively, they may ask for sensitive information, passwords, or other compromising pieces of information using social relationships in a practice called social engineering.

Once an attacker has access to your system, they may install malware, which gives them more sophisticated control of your systems. A severe version of this is a ransomware attack, where a program completely encrypts all your data so that you can no longer access it. The attacker then demands a ransom to de-encrypt it.

Lastly, by getting access to your system, an attacker may steal your or your clients’ data in a data breach. They may put that information up for sale or use it themselves. This can result in loss of intellectual property, financial information, or other significant problems.

Real-Life Examples of Cyberattacks on Logistics Companies

These aren’t just theoretical threats. In 2017, Maersk was hit by a ransomware called NotPetya launched by Russia to disable Ukrainian shipping. The attack had been put in place earlier in the year, and when triggered, it froze Maersk data across 76 ports completely. By the time they could restore their systems, the total damage was estimated to be approximately $10 billion, according to Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert. 

Another attack hit a major logistics company in 2018. COSCO was hit by an attack that forced them to disable their entire email and telephone systems. COSCO, unlike Maersk, was able to restore its services and keep running due to a more robust culture of cybersecurity. The difference between long shutdowns, huge losses in profit, and significant impacts on reputation, which are hard to recover from, is how much an organization prepares for cyberattacks.

Importance of Protecting Data and Systems in the Logistics Industry

Cyber threats in logistics have a variety of potential impacts that can come to bear on your business if they aren’t carried out correctly. One of the biggest risks that you as a logistics company can run by not sufficiently safeguarding your information is allowing sensitive customer information or intellectual property to fall into the hands of attackers. Breaches of this kind can easily run into the millions or billions in terms of costs, depending on what is lost. It can also cost you significant amounts of future business if you lose the trust of your customers in such a breach. 

Additionally, there are government requirements to protect consumer data and products, and failure to do so can result in significant fines or having to shut down your business until you are back in compliance. Of course, keeping your operations and supply chains continuously working is the thing that keeps you in business.  

Steps to Enhance Cybersecurity in the Logistics Industry

Step 1: Conducting a Comprehensive Risk Assessment

In order to enhance your cybersecurity in a logistics operation, you will need to start by doing a top-to-bottom assessment of risks. This includes making sure that end-to-end security is maintained in your IT infrastructure and networks and evaluating what compliance is like on your current cybersecurity policies. This will allow you to evaluate the potential impact that any cyberattack might have on your operations. 

Step 2: Implementing Robust Authentication and Access Control Measures

The next step is to improve how your company handles access. The first step is to ensure that you have implemented multi-factor authentication and strong password policies. Utilizing both makes sure that compromising one device or one password does not give an attacker access to your system. Additionally, access to privileged systems should be restricted solely to those who need it, and general-use machines (however convenient) should be eliminated wherever possible. This step will help to ensure that you don’t have any unmonitored privileged machines. 

 Step 3: Educating Employees About Cybersecurity Best Practices

Making sure that your employees can identify and report potential threats is critical to maintaining good cybersecurity, and that is only possible with constant education. Relatedly, employees who do not understand the reason behind good cybersecurity are unlikely to execute it, which will degrade the value of your other programs.

Step 4: Establishing Incident Response and Recovery Plans

Once you have your base level of cybersecurity set, the next step is to create a dedicated team to respond to cybersecurity incidents. They should focus on maintaining sufficient redundancy to operate through ransomware or malware attacks and developing protocols for rapidly containing and responding to events that take place in the company.

Step 5: Collaborating With Third-Party Vendors and Partners

Lastly, nobody can do all of this alone, and it would be foolhardy to think that any organization is the exception. Third-party collaborators can work with you to assess how well you have been able to secure your networks and to establish additional levels of data protection and incident response beyond what your organization may find feasible to maintain independently. 

The Role of Technology in Enhancing Cybersecurity

There are a few types of technology that can help to enhance your cybersecurity footprint and ease the manpower burden of administering all of the pieces of your network security.

Encryption and Data Protection

Good encryption and data practices make it so that even if someone gets access to your raw data in privileged systems, they would be unable to use them. 

Intrusion Detection and Prevention

Intrusion detection systems can be deployed to alert you to attempts to access your systems and prevent them in an automated fashion.

Firewall and Network Security Solutions

Firewalls can block unlicensed remote connections to your networks, and network security systems can ease a lot of the burden of enabling secure remote connections for your off-site employees.

AI and ML for Threat Detection

Evolving artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions are being developed, which allow threat detection and prediction in ways that were previously impossible to deploy across an entire system.

Blockchain for Securing Operations

The blockchain is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot, but in many ways, it was custom-built for securing logistics operations. Each block is a set of keys that can only be decrypted by both users’ private keys. This adds an additional unique encryption to each step of the process, allowing you to completely vouchsafe each interaction along the operations chain.

Regulatory Compliance and Data Protection in the Logistics Industry

Regulations regarding personal and consumer data also affect the logistics industry. When a client makes an order that generates purchase records and transactions that include financial data, addresses, and much more, all the data is regulated. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) affects any company that does business in the EU and imposes stiff penalties on any business that does not comply. Similarly, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) applies similar regulations to any company doing business in California.

To avoid running afoul of these regulations, businesses need to conduct regular audits and assessments. They will also need to ensure that they are engaging in privacy-by-design principles, which make ensuring such compliance easier. While good data security goes a long way toward improving compliance, it is not sufficient by itself. 

Keep Your Business Safe With the Proper Cybersecurity Infrastructure

The potential value of avoiding serious data breaches and ransomware attacks cannot be overstated. Operating with an eye toward cybersecurity will put you ahead with regard to consumer data protection while also doing a huge amount of work to protect your assets, your bottom line, and your infrastructure. 

Working to prioritize your cybersecurity infrastructure is always better to do sooner rather than later. It will help you to maintain a resilient and profitable business in the long run. Cyberattackers work like many other businesses, looking to maximize the intersection between profit and effort. By making sure that your company isn’t one of the easier targets and that the logistics sector as a whole is a harder target, you can be part of dissuading them from attack.


What Are the Common Cyber Threats Faced By Logistics Companies?

The most common cyber threats faced by logistics companies are phishing, social engineering, ransomware, malware, and data breaches.

How Can Logistics Companies Enhance Cybersecurity Measures?

Some of the ways that logistics companies can enhance cybersecurity measures are increasing company awareness of common points of failure, instituting multi-factor authentication for privileged accounts, limiting privileged accounts to single-use devices, and ensuring sufficient data masking and secure connections in all applications.

What Are the Potential Risks and Consequences of Cyberattacks on Logistics Operations?

Cyberattacks can lead to long shutdowns, huge profit losses, and irreparable reputation damage. They can also reveal non-compliance with consumer data protection regulations, which can result in additional fines.

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