Cybersecurity: an essential factor in a changing transport world

At a time when fleet management is becoming digitalised, vehicles are becoming connected and freight is becoming smart, modern transport is taking on increasing amounts of information technology, thereby exposing itself to the risk of hacking. Blockchains, encryption, machine learning and good security practices should help the profession to secure data which has become the cornerstone of their activity.

Information technology is all-pervasive in this third millennium, and some analysts consider the digitalisation of society to be the dawn of a new industrial revolution.

Without necessarily going back over its entire history, from the first computers in companies to home computers and today’s latest connected devices, the importance that IT has taken on in our everyday lives is undisputable. Digital media have thus become our companions both at work and in our personal lives, and we entrust our data, our thoughts and even our darkest secrets to them. We do this - or at least the younger generations do - in an intuitive fashion, almost oblivious to the risks we run. And yet the risks relating to digitalisation and the use of technology in general - right down to our toothbrushes - is huge: software disruption, data hacking, remote manipulation, espionage, etc. We saw recently that it was quite possible, not to say «easy», to block the production chains of a manufacturing group of the size of Renault following a world-scale hack. This is nothing particularly astonishing, since IT is entrenched in the car building industry as far as controlling assembly robots, and tomorrow will control our self-driving cars.

In transport, the computerisation of management methods has contributed considerably to optimising companies’ processes, but also has resulted in shifting the challenges. Today it is not so much goods that are being transported as data. And this data is shared, exchanged, compiled, analysed and enriched without the failsafe guarantee that it will remain secure and unviolated. Cybersecurity is more than ever becoming a cause of concern for the profession which, in addition to its internal competition, must also protect itself in particular from the practices of the big Web and e-commerce operators, and also ward off the risks of cyberattacks on future self-driving vehicles or smart cities.


Cybersecurity is therefore defined as the set of the tools and practices that can be implemented in firms to secure the IT fleet, systems to encrypt and lock down companies’ and Cloud data, secure databases and BlockChains, but also training for employees who must adopt the right attitudes in accordance with the new digital resources that they use. While today there is a wide range of forms of computer hacking (see box), the transport and logistics industry mainly faces two key risks: the takeover of the control of systems to stop them working or to use them for fraudulent purposes, and the theft of data either for espionage or to hold it to ransom. In practice, the company’s strategic data, clients, transaction, prices, when digitalised and incorporated within databases which exchange information with other databases or programs become potential targets for a hacker. And the more data circulates from one network to another, the higher the risk of intrusion, with risks such as information being sold on to the competition, systems becoming blocked with the demand of a ransom to unblock them, or even worse, their remote deletion. The risk even takes on a physical nature for people, if a self-driving truck were to be hacked and hijacked for criminal purposes, for example. And while the American channel CBS hijacked a Jeep for the purposes of its show, resulting in 1.4 million models being recalled for a security patch, manufacturers are going allout for connectivity and the incorporation of embedded Wi-Fi or mobile apps. Today if someone steals the keys to a truck, a novice will still find it difficult to start the engine.

Tomorrow, it could suffice to steal or copy the driver’s smartphone to use a semi-autonomous truck! Authentication, encryption and fingerprint reading must become more reliable to prevent the risk of hacking and taking over connected vehicles. The automotive industry has started to take the problem seriously. Cybersecurity is now on the agenda of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers which brings together BMW, FIAT CHRYSLER, FORD, GM, JAGUAR LAND ROVER, MAZDA, MERCEDES-BENZ, MITSUBISHI, PORSCHE, TOYOTA, VW AND VOLVO.

This cybersecurity is quite relative and could be deemed to be a mere façade when one considers the defects relating to the interconnection of the industry’s information systems from plants to subcontractor sites and as far as aftersales workshops. These digitalised and automated production processes at work in the industry 4.0 help to improve productivity and make savings of millions of euros. But they are also a wide open door for hackers who theoretically have the opportunity of taking over the control of machines.

Tools, best practices, blockchain, rules...everything you need to know about cybersecurity is in our file!


Cybersecurity in the spotlight at SOLUTRANS:

  • TALK - FRIDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2017 AT 2.30PM
    • «Is the Heavy Goods Vehicle sector properly equipped to deal with hacking risks? Anxieties and Challenges»