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Guide to assessing your supply chain cybersecurity risk

In today’s interconnected world, where sensitive information flows seamlessly across networks and hardware, understanding the risks and vulnerabilities associated with your supply chain is the first step in protecting your products, employees, data, and customer information.

Sixty-two percent of organizations were impacted by supply chain cyber attacks in 2021. Worse yet, these attacks cost companies $4.24 million on average. Since then, they’ve only been getting more expensive. 

With over one million for-hire trucking carriers in the U.S. and billions of tons of freight moving annually, the trucking industry is one of the most vital links in the supply chain to protect.

This guide will shed light on the types of exploits in the supply chain, introduce supply chain risk assessments, and provide practical steps to assess and mitigate the possibility of devastating supply chain cyber-attacks.

Why cybersecurity is important in the supply chain

Your supply chain is a network of interconnected bridges, each relying on the stability and integrity of the others. Enter industry cyber attacks and threats; they are waves crashing against your bridges. 

Eventually, one of these waves will hit a weak point in a bridge just hard enough to cause a catastrophe. For the safety of your clients, end users, and equipment, you must ensure those ‘weak points’ known as ‘supply chain risks’ are sealed as tight as possible.

The increasing reliance on digital technologies creates new surface areas for new types of hacking within supply chains. A successful cyber attack can disrupt operations, compromise sensitive data, and damage a company’s reputation, leading to financial losses and legal consequences.

On top of the direct hardships you may face amidst hacking, supply chain ransomware, or web attacks, these exploits can open new attack opportunities for future bad actors and spiral from expensive fixes to really expensive fixes, and we’re not just talking about financial detriments.

Main cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities the trucking industry faces

Understanding the threats the trucking industry faces is foundational for assessing and managing supply chain cybersecurity risks. By recognizing the risks and vulnerabilities that coincide with threats, trucking companies can tailor their supply chain risk management strategies to reduce the impact of varying types of security breaches to the utmost of their ability.

So, what are supply chain risks, and are they unique to the transportation sector? Though there are a few widespread attacks we observe throughout the trucking industry, they’re not unique to the supply chain. No matter the location, institution, security posture, or company size, you will always see these concerns mentioned: 

Exploits of network vulnerabilities

Many trucking organizations rely on complex networks to manage their operations efficiently. However, these networks also serve as prime entry points for cybercriminals. A network security vulnerability is often one of the first ways malicious actors attempt to break into a system.

Hackers can exploit unpatched software, weak passwords, and misconfigured systems to gain unauthorized access to your hardware or software. Trucking companies can significantly reduce the risk of attacks by identifying these vulnerabilities as soon as possible and creating appropriate responses and proactive mitigation techniques in a supply chain risk management plan.

Social engineering attacks

The infamous ‘social engineering attacks.’ A cybercriminal’s favorite pathway into an organization.
Often, simply tricking your employees, associates, vendors, and even users into giving a hacker information is the easiest, quickest, and most effective method of breaching your cybersecurity defenses. Why attempt to break through a robust software protection system when you can simply sweet-talk, fool, or persuade everyday people into handing over sensitive information?

Phishing emails, fake phone calls, cloned websites, casual conversations, text message phishing (called smishing), and invoice scams are just a handful of attack vectors you should note in your supply chain assessment. Identify security vulnerabilities for every possible scenario.

Data analysis and cybersecurity organizations approximate that 80-90% of all cyberattacks are forms of social engineering or take advantage of human interactions in the workplace. Almost every attack your company must inevitably face will start and end with your people. 

Educating and training your employees about the dangers of social engineering is one of the most reliable means to prevent cyber attacks. However, you shouldn’t stop there. Supply chain risk management tools paired with cybersecurity practices weave a great defense against social engineering attacks.

Multi-factor authentication, strong spam and email filters, password policies, and a robust, thorough education program should be cornerstones of your organization’s security posture.

Ransomware attacks

Transport ransomware attacks have emerged as one of the most significant threats to the trucking industry. Malicious actors can infiltrate trucking systems and encrypt essential data, demanding a ransom for its release. 

Falling victim to a trucking industry ransomware attack will likely bring severe consequences. Without a detailed supply chain risk analysis and response plan, you can expect disrupted operations, financial losses, damaged reputations, sensitive data exposure, and black-market data sales. 

The importance of regularly monitoring, maintaining, and improving your supply chain risk management solutions cannot be overstated. You may think, “Those only happen to other organizations; no one would want to hack us.” But bad actors don’t always come from the outside. Employees with ulterior motives can easily take advantage of your company from within. 

Regularly back up your data, employ robust endpoint protection solutions and software, and implement network segmentation to isolate potential ransomware attacks. No one wants an attack to happen, but you should be prepared if it does. 

5 steps to assess your supply chain’s cybersecurity risk

1) Identify and understand potential threats

Begin by identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities within your supply chain. Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the systems, networks, and processes that support your trucking operations. 

Consider factors such as the data types you handle, the systems you rely on, and the internal and external parties you collaborate with. Understanding your organization’s specific risks will help you develop targeted mitigation strategies.

2) Conduct a vulnerability analysis

Perform a thorough vulnerability analysis of your systems and networks. You may also want to contract your supply chain assessment to a managed service provider (MSP). Depending on your resources, MSPs may be more cost-effective and secure for your organization. 

The analyses should include hardware, software, and configuration assessments to identify any weaknesses or potential entry points for cyber attacks. Identify and prioritize vulnerabilities based on their potential impact and exploitability. This is where you begin developing your supply chain risk management processes.

3) Implement security measures

Once vulnerabilities are identified, take proactive measures to address them. Implement a multi-layered security approach that includes firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, antivirus software, and email filtering solutions. 

Regularly update and patch software to address known vulnerabilities. Educate employees about transportation cybersecurity best practices and how to prevent cyber attacks through diligent system usage. 

Establish strict password policies to mitigate social engineering risks.

4) Monitor and detect threats

Invest in network monitoring tools that can identify and flag suspicious activities. Configure your intrusion detection and prevention systems to detect potential threats and respond swiftly to mitigate their impact. 

Regularly review and update security measures to stay one step ahead of emerging threats. Consider leveraging threat intelligence services to gain insights into the latest cyber threats and attack vectors. Monitor suppliers, cyber security contracts, vendors, and all third parties you interact with.

If you depend on a company external to yours, they pose a security threat to your organization. Be sure to pay attention to the risks they introduce.

5) Develop an incident response plan

The glue that will hold your trucking cybersecurity operation together is the incident response plan. This plan should outline clear steps to be taken in the event of a security breach, including communication protocols, containment procedures, and recovery strategies. 

Regularly test and update the plan to ensure its effectiveness. Conduct tabletop exercises and simulations to train employees to respond effectively to different attack scenarios and types of cybersecurity breaches.

Don’t leave yourself open to unnecessary risk

Understanding supply chain security, especially in the trucking industry, is paramount to protecting your operations, data, and reputation in this interconnected world. Though maintaining a secure organization may be costly and utilize resources, the opportunity cost of encountering a live cyber threat is not worth risking your business.

You must effectively assess and mitigate risks, identify potential threats, conduct vulnerability analysis, and implement robust security measures. Ongoing monitoring, threat detection, and a well-defined incident response plan are essential for sustaining your security posture long-term.

The trucking industry can safeguard operations, maintain customer trust, and mitigate the impact of cyber threats with effective cybersecurity and employee training. By developing proactive security measures, you participate in an industry-wide connected ‘brick wall’ against hackers.


What are some examples of security breaches in the trucking industry?

Examples of security breaches in the trucking industry include unauthorized access to transportation management systems (TMS), ransomware attacks, encrypting valuable data, and phishing attempts targeting employees to gain unauthorized access to critical systems.

How can supply chain risk management software help in mitigating cyber threats?

Supply chain risk management software provides visibility into potential vulnerabilities and risks across the supply chain. It allows organizations to monitor and assess cyber threats, implement preventive measures, and respond swiftly to security breaches. By leveraging such software, trucking companies can strengthen their cybersecurity posture and proactively mitigate risks.

What are some best practices for preventing cyber attacks in the trucking industry?

Best practices for preventing cyber attacks in the trucking industry include implementing strong password policies, regularly updating software and security patches, educating employees about social engineering techniques, conducting regular vulnerability assessments, and staying informed about emerging cyber threats.

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