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The trucking sector is essential to countless other industries. Without reliable transportation, supply chains would crumble, and companies and consumers would face shortages. With so much riding on it, it’s no wonder why the industry has fully embraced technology like telematics in recent years.

Telematics refers to the suite of technologies fleets use to share data between vehicles and command centers. At its most basic level, it includes things like GPS tracking, and at its most advanced, it can transmit driving habits and maintenance information. As of 2019, there were 13 million of these systems in use in the United States, and they keep growing.

As helpful as these technologies can be, they come with some risks. Without thorough telematics security, fleets could face dire consequences.

The Need for Telematics Security

The trucking industry’s embrace of IoT technology is inevitable. Large-scale shipping projects require precise execution to ensure safety and success. IoT tracking services help ensure that, but generating and transmitting that much data comes at a cost.

Data of that size and value is an enticing target for criminals looking to extort money. Given how crucial trucking is for the economy, malicious actors could cause severe damage by disrupting it. To make matters worse, IoT security is notoriously lacking in many areas.

Companies could easily overlook IoT sensors, but every endpoint on a network is a potential entryway for criminals. Many IoT devices today don’t come with built-in security systems, either. Trucking companies need to take telematics security into their own hands. Here’s how they can do that.

Look for Providers With Built-In Security

The first step in securing these devices is probably the most obvious. When trucking companies are looking for a telematics vendor, they should keep security in mind.

The FBI recommends all drivers check the security and privacy policies of device manufacturers, and trucking businesses can go a step further.

Trucking companies should go beyond ensuring a device is safe and look for built-in security solutions. If a system offers security by design, businesses won’t have to worry about third-party compatibility issues. The fewer parties they have to deal with, the easier and safer it will be to implement these devices.

Of course, this is only a first step, not a cure-all. Built-in security provides a useful starting point, but companies should still go further to ensure device safety.

Encrypt Data Transfers

Telematics systems are such enticing targets to criminals because they’re continually transmitting data. So much information going back and forth between vehicles and command centers gives criminals a world of opportunity. One of the most crucial steps in securing these data transfers is enabling end-to-end encryption.

Since they have to communicate over vast distances, the IoT devices in vehicles typically rely on cellular networks. While more secure than most public Wi-Fi hotspots, these connections aren’t entirely safe. 3G and 4G networks don’t support end-to-end encryption, only encrypting data between the device and base station.

When trucking companies implement an IoT network, they should establish end-to-end encryption, as well. This practice provides an added layer of security and prevents issues with cellular networks. Companies should also follow NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) recommendations for encryption algorithms to avoid weak ciphers.

Digitally Sign Updates

One of the most widely known and basic steps in cybersecurity is to update device firmware regularly. Trucking companies may inadvertently create vulnerabilities in their pursuit of this goal, though. When their devices receive automatic over-the-air updates, it creates an opening for criminals to replace the firmware update with malicious code.

To protect against these attacks, trucking businesses can require digital signing for all over-the-air updates. With this regulation in place, devices can verify that the updates come from a trusted source. A criminal’s code won’t have the right digital signature, so the device will reject it.

Similar methods can verify the devices themselves, increasing security at both ends. With these protocols in place, companies can update their devices safely. They can stay safe from old vulnerabilities without creating new ones in the process.

Have a Business Continuity Plan

Even the most advanced security system isn’t perfect. No matter how much telematics security a trucking company has, unexpected threats can still threaten their system. By establishing a business continuity plan, they can mitigate the damage of these unforeseen emergencies.

Business continuity ensures mission-critical data and systems still function in the event of a breach. Every company’s plan will look different, but this typically involves things like backups and network segmentation. This plan should also update as new cyber threats emerge and the business integrates new technologies.

A 2019 study found that 96% of global businesses had experienced at least one IT outage in the past three years. These situations are far too common and damaging for trucking companies to ignore. Without a business continuity plan, their IoT infrastructure is at risk.

Perform Regular Penetration Testing

The last step in telematics security is ensuring that all of the others work. Like in any cybersecurity endeavor, trucking companies securing their IoT devices must test their security. Regular penetration testing will reveal any vulnerabilities that have emerged as businesses have grown.

It’s likely that trucking companies’ cybersecurity has easy-to-fix weaknesses that they’ve overlooked. For example, one testing firm revealed that 65% of tested organizations still don’t use multi-factor authentication in 2020. Without penetration testing, these flaws can go unnoticed, leaving IoT networks vulnerable.

Cybercrime is always evolving, so trucking companies’ cybersecurity measures need to adapt alongside it. Penetration testing reveals where and how they can improve. They can then be sure that their telematics systems are as safe as possible.

Cybersecurity Unlocks Telematics’ Full Potential

Telematics is an indispensable tool for many trucking companies. Without thorough cybersecurity, though, their vulnerabilities may outweigh their benefits, threatening trucking businesses and the industries that rely on them. IoT cybersecurity is a must for any trucking company that wants to use these devices.

Better IoT security lets these businesses take full advantage of telematics. When they don’t have to worry about exposing their systems to criminals, they can comfortably implement these technologies and experience their full benefits.


About the Author: Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine celebrating innovations in industry, science and technology. Subscribe to our newsletter for industry updates.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.