7 Sep 21

3 steps to follow to prevent destructive cyber attacks 

Forming the skeleton of the global supply chain, fleets generate vast amounts of sensitive data which may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. That is why there are plenty of reasons for cybercriminals to focus their attention on fleet operations, as attacks on them increased by 99% in 2019 . 

The attacks targeting connected vehicles may appear in the form of a DDoS attack on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) or a state-sponsored espionage operation aiming to steal technical know-how. 

The two most threatening attack types are ever-increasing ransomware and espionage attempts. Ransomware can block all fleet operations by locking up computer systems until the payment is sent to cybercriminals. Espionage attempts are not based on profit but on stealing intellectual property for competitive advantage. Whatever the reason, cyber-attacks may result in huge financial losses along with reputational damage. 

According to a 2021 report, almost half of the top car manufacturers have suffered from a ransomware attack. Worse, 17% of automotive suppliers are expected to be hit by a ransomware attack .

OEMs, suppliers and telematics companies are all encircled by cyber threats. At the core, fleet managers will be responsible for setting up the last and the most critical security barrier to prevent unauthorized access to IoT devices. 

“Attack on smart traffic systems may have catastrophic consequences” 

Management of IoT devices will be based on applications. According to application security firm StrixEye, ignorance of necessary measures in connected vehicles could turn action movie scenes into reality where dozens of vehicles crash into each other.

StrixEye recently hacked an application of a B2C fleet company and managed to access the main control panel of all vehicles belonging to the fleet. They realized that the company had installed a feature to stop the engine of any vehicle remotely in case of theft. If it was a cybercrime organization that accessed the control panel, they would have the chance to stop thousands of cars on the roads of İstanbul. 

According to StrixEye experts, this is the tip of the iceberg. The majority of the fleet vehicles on the road belong to 5-10 companies when considered geographically. If cyber criminals manage to infiltrate the servers of the biggest five OEMs, chaos may ensue. For fleet managers, it is not necessary to think about the worst case scenario to realize how vital security is. A large-scale attack may push a fleet to a point where it may not recover. 

StrixEye lists three steps for fleets to prevent any kind of cyber-attack: 

  1. Regular security tests must be conducted by a different application security firm each time. 
  2. No matter their size, every fleet must budget for its security team. In this regard, a Vehicle Security Operations Centre (VSOC) can be formed in-house or outsourced.
  3. It is vital to subscribe to Bug Bounty platforms. Through Bug Bounty, fleets can keep a constant check of flaws in their security systems and discover weak points with the help of white hackers. 

Security experts remind fleet managers to act as quickly as possible, as cybercriminals are already upgrading their digital arsenal to hack smart cities. 

Authored by: Müfit Yılmaz Gökmen