Defending the digital frontier

by Sean Kilcarr
Oct 16, 2014

Frankly it’s hard to focus on the perils posed by cyber threats at the moment, especially as we are now faced with the spread of the deadly Ebola virus here in the U.S., along with the ongoing military campaign to stop the ISIS terror group from overtaking Kurdish-held lands as well as other locales in the Middle East.

Yet with so much of the freight world now dependent on electronic connections to transfer everything from cargo invoices to shipment location across America and around the globe, trucking firms will need to pay closer attention to digital security.

It may also come as something of a surprise that we’re in week three of “National Cyber Security Awareness Month,” a campaign co-sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that’s attempting to highlight the importance of protecting digital infrastructure critical to the U.S. as well as the proper securing all devices connected to the Internet.

Michael Kaiser, the NCSA’s executive director, noted recently that the Internet underlies nearly every facet of our daily lives and is the foundation for much of the critical infrastructure that keeps the U.S. up and running.

And this is the week when the group turns its digital security-lens upon the "Internet of Things" (IoT) and why securing multiple interconnected devices within this network is so vital – largely because the IoT will ultimately link to 16 sectors of critical U.S. infrastructure, supporting electricity, financial services, transportation, and communications.

With more than 1.76 billion smartphone users worldwide transferring data on their phones daily, the IoT – a rapidly expanding set of "things" that includes tags, sensors and devices that interact and share data with each other and with software applications – is changing the way we use technology, Kaiser (seen at left) argued.

“Soon, we won't be transferring data just via phones, but through machines such as thermostats, refrigerators, cars and even front doors,” he explained.

“As wireless technology continues to expand, we will see more benefits and more convenience in operating our personal devices,” Kaiser added.

“But greater connectivity via mobile also makes us more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats," he stressed. "Every one of us will need to be aware of safety, security and privacy concerns as we adopt these new innovations and take proactive precautions to protect our growing family of connected platforms."

To that end, NCSA is offering a series of tips to help individuals and companies alike better defend their “digital frontiers” and thus by extension help protect critical U.S. infrastructure:

  • Keep a Clean Machine: Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.
  • Be Smarter Than Your Device: Protect all devices that connect to the Internet. Along with computers, smartphones, gaming systems and other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware.
  • Safer for me more secure for all: What you do online has the potential to affect everyone – at home, at work and around the world. Practicing good online habits benefits the global digital community.

Think, too, how all of this might impact on trucking – especially where digital-heavy endeavors such as self-driving trucks are concerned. And while that particular concern may be way off in the future, computer system hacking and other such cybercrime is definitely a “here and now issue” motor carriers must combat.

Suffice to say methinks defense against the digital “dark arts” will be a trucking topic for some time to come.

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