Blog > Fulfillment and Logistics > Fortifying Your Cargo Against Cybersecurity Threats in 2023

Fortifying Your Cargo Against Cybersecurity Threats in 2023

This is a guest post from David L. Buss. David is CEO of DB Schenker North America, a 150-year-old leading global freight forwarder and 3PL provider. He’s responsible for all P&L aspects in the North American region, which comprises over 7,000 employees located throughout 39 forwarding locations and 55 logistics centers.

Over the past few years, cybersecurity has become an increasingly significant concern for businesses across all industries. Organizations whose operations rely heavily on digital systems face graver consequences from cybercrime as technology evolves. This issue is predicted to continue its upward trend well into 2023 and beyond.

Cargo transport businesses in particular have become vulnerable to cyberattacks, because the shipping industry depends on digital systems to track and process cargo. That makes this sector an attractive target for online thieves.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial for businesses to take proactive measures against cyberattacks on their cargo and other transportation systems to safeguard their operations’ integrity.

How cargo system vulnerabilities can lead to cyberattacks

From improved operational efficiency to enhanced security, advancements in technology have brought numerous benefits to the cargo transportation industry.

Unfortunately, it’s also raised the risk of cyberattacks.

Cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for operational vulnerabilities to exploit. Whether it’s hacking into cargo databases or intercepting communications between cargo ships, there are numerous ways hackers can attack cargo systems, with two of the most common being:

  1. Software vulnerabilities: Attackers take advantage of weak points in the software that manages cargo transportation to access systems and extract sensitive information or disrupt operations. These vulnerabilities are often due to outdated software, unpatched systems, or weak passwords.
  2. Phishing schemes: Phishing involves tricking unsuspecting users into divulging sensitive information, such as login credentials or personal information, by posing as a legitimate website or service. In the cargo transportation industry, these attacks can leak confidential information about shipments or even result in rerouting shipments to different locations.

Due to increasing technological integrations in cargo transportation, companies must be aware of the weak points in their systems and take appropriate measures to defend against cyberattacks.

10 Expert-recommended strategies for protecting cargo from cyber threats

Given the number of connected devices in a business, the growth of data-driven operations, and companies’ reliance on software and networks, cargo system weaknesses constitute a significant concern. The rise of cyber threats has made it essential for companies to adopt practices to secure their cargo.

I’ve outlined 10 expert-recommended strategies to prevent or mitigate cyberattacks and keep your cargo safe.

1. Regularly update software

Like personal computers and mobile devices, cargo systems must have up-to-date software.

Outdated applications, firmware, and operating systems are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. So, it’s essential to implement an automated patching process to ensure updates are applied quickly. Regularly doing so hinders digital thieves from exploiting vulnerabilities in a system.

You should also remove software that’s no longer supported, as it receives no new patches and so is more prone to attacks.

2. Implement strong access controls

Access controls are the mechanisms that limit authorization to sensitive systems, applications, and data. Robust access controls are critical for securing cargo from cyber threats. As such, your business should implement least-privilege strategies, meaning users and accounts only have the minimum required permissions. You can also use multifactor authentication and other advanced tactics to restrict access to the right individuals.

Be mindful of insider threats as well, which are one of the leading causes of cyberattacks. Strong access controls help stop insider threats in their tracks by limiting users’ access to sensitive information. Regularly review and update your access control mechanisms to maintain their efficacy.

3. Conduct risk assessments

Prevention is your strongest defense, so schedule periodic risk assessments internally and with your 3PL fulfillment partners. Risk assessments identify vulnerabilities and provide actionable insights to protect against cyber threats.

Your company should also develop a risk management plan that includes ongoing monitoring of risk factors and the implementation of appropriate countermeasures.

Risk assessments must take into account various scenarios and potential attack vectors. Focus on pinpointing your most critical assets and prioritizing security to avoid emerging threats and tighten your safety practices.

4. Train employees

Educate your employees on how to identify and respond to cyber threats. They should clearly understand their role and responsibility in protecting cargo from digital attackers. Consider introducing a training program that teaches employees about common attacks, how to recognize potential threats, and how to report incidents.

5. Encrypt sensitive data

Encryption is a mandatory strategy to protect sensitive information from online threats. Verify that all sensitive data is encrypted when stored and transmitted. To secure that information, you can adopt industry-standard encryption mechanisms like AES or RSA.

Thanks to encryption, even if an attacker can access your data, they’ll be unable to read it without the appropriate decryption key. As such, you need to manage and store decryption keys securely.

6. Establish incident response plans

An incident response plan details a set of actions to perform during a security breach or cyberattack. It should be explicit and outline the roles and responsibilities of personnel involved in the response, including senior management, IT staff, and external stakeholders such as law enforcement agencies. Test the procedure to ensure it works and covers all bases.

A robust incident response plan should include the following elements:

  • Identification of all assets within the IT infrastructure
  • A procedure for prioritizing incidents based on severity level
  • A clear communication outline that identifies all stakeholders involved and how communication will flow during the incident
  • Secure data backups to restore operations to normal after a successful attack
  • Guidelines for training and preparing employees to detect cyber threats and follow the incident response plan

Proper training of all personnel is essential to ensure the plan’s effectiveness. Run regular drills and training sessions to keep everyone updated on the latest procedures and best practices for handling online incidents.

7. Monitor and audit systems

To identify potential vulnerabilities and cyber threats, regularly monitor and audit your IT systems. This includes logging activities on the network and system, monitoring access attempts to critical systems, and reviewing reports from security software. Continuous monitoring helps detect any unusual activity, such as changes to system files, unauthorized access attempts, and new malware infections.

Auditing system configurations and software changes are vital as well to configure your system and apply up-to-date software patches. It helps isolate system issues, detect security gaps, and provide corrective measures.

8. Employ network segmentation

Network segmentation is the process of dividing more extensive networks into smaller, more secure subnetworks, or segments. Each segment is generally isolated from the others, with its own network device and security protocols. That individual security limits the potential damage of a successful cyberattack since hackers can only access a small portion of the overall system.

Employing network segmentation ensures any unauthorized access to sensitive data can’t spread throughout the entire network. Separating the network also makes it easier to isolate any further compromises and quarantine the impacted systems. This approach simplifies the identification of unusual activities in the network and helps determine how to protect sensitive data.

9. Maintain physical security

While cybersecurity is a significant concern, physical security is equally important in protecting cargo. To guarantee the physical safety of a cargo system, you must store all cargo safely, track access strictly, and secure equipment and the site itself.

You can adopt several measures to maintain physical security, such as:

  • Establishing security policies for cargo storage and movement
  • Employing strict identification procedures for visitors, employees, contractors, and suppliers
  • Setting access controls that restrict entry to authorized personnel only, as well as area redundancy
  • Monitoring the supply chain constantly
  • Reviewing and updating security protocols to account for evolving threats

10. Collaborate with industry partners

Industry-wide partnerships enable cargo operators to swap experiences, best practices, and resources to tackle data security problems in their niche. They can also uncover shared vulnerabilities, develop workable security solutions, and detect slow or emerging attacks.

Your collaborations may entail exchanging visibility on threat intelligence, cooperating on security research projects, and calling for mutual defensive measures. The information transmitted in these partnerships is invaluable for identifying imminent threats and taking appropriate steps to mitigate the impact on your cargo operations.

Wrapping up — Keep your shipments safe by implementing the right security protocols

Maintaining secure cargo requires a multi-faceted approach that includes network segmentation, physical security measures, and strategic industry partnerships. By taking the necessary steps to protect your shipments from cyber threats, you can minimize the risk of data breaches and ensure their safety.