Indeed, trials of connected trucks and cars on our roads have already begun, promising enormous disruption to the automotive and logistics industries and wide-reaching social and economic benefits. But the technology itself is, in some ways, the easy part. Consumer trust will be harder to win, and while a recent study from Deloitte suggests that acceptance of connected and autonomous vehicles is climbing, particularly amongst the younger generations, it will take time. It is the safety and security of these vehicles that will determine the pace that that acceptance develops.

Conversations about IoT and security go hand-in-hand.

90%

of transport respondents said that their organisation’s process to address cyber security could be stronger

More connected devices necessarily leads to more vulnerabilities but while these vulnerabilities can be patched, they must be tackled head on. This of course applies to every sector. However, transport is so visible and vital that there are few that face such high levels of societal scrutiny. Connected vehicles have the potential to malfunction and robust cyber security is critical, relying as they will on data transfer from vehicle-to-vehicle and from vehicle to a control centre bringing inherent vulnerabilities.

 

Without adequate protections and assurances, transport companies will struggle to capture and maintain the trust of consumers, but our data indicates that few have yet perfected their approach to security. Fully 90 per cent of respondents believe that their organisation’s process to address cyber security could be stronger, while 39 per cent state that they will need to rethink their entire approach to data security altogether.

To what extent do you agree with the following statements when it comes to your organisation’s security and the use of IoT?

My organisation’s processes to combat cyber security could be stronger:

My organisation’s processes to combat data mishandling could be stronger:

Strongly agree
Agree
Disagree

These figures are troubling and give some indication of the work that the transport sector has in front of it as it strives towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As part of critical national infrastructure, the increasingly-technology dependent transport sector is a prime target for bad actors intent on wreaking havoc and causing disruption. IoT-related breaches are not hypothetical, and technology analysts Forrester have highlighted fleet management in transportation as an area that will be particularly vulnerable to such hacks going forward.

Cyber-attacks are not unprecedented in the transportation sector.

In 2008 a teenager sparked chaos in Poland by hacking into a tram network and derailing four vehicles, injuring 12 people in the process. More recently, hackers successfully carried out a ransomware attack on San Francisco’s public transport network, commandeering 2,000 ticketing machines and forcing the Municipal Transportation Agency to allow passengers to travel for free for a brief time. As we come to rely more heavily on technology, these attacks will become more frequent and more damaging.

There are several strands here and it is important to recognise that security is not simply a matter of malicious individuals breaking into networks to steal data and take virtual control of devices. While that is a distinct possibility, equally important is the way that transport companies manage the data that their IoT solutions generate, the mishandling of which could land these organisations on the wrong side of the regulators and quickly see consumer trust dashed. But again, some 61 per cent believe that their processes to combat data mishandling could be stronger, and while efforts are clearly being made to bolster security provisions, large gaps in security defences remain.

What has your organisation done or is planning to do to tackle potential security concerns? (%)

Investing in new security technologies
Partnering with a third party
Communicating to customers on the use of IoT
Upgrading existing security technologies
Training employees on IoT
Creation of an internal IoT security policy
Creation of an external IoT security policy for suppliers and partners
Hiring skilled staff
We have not done/do not plan to do anything

47%

of respondents are looking to partner with another organisation to take on security concerns

Addressing these shortfalls will take time, though, regrettably, a large-scale IoT-related security breach will concentrate minds wonderfully. Transport organisations should scrutinise the security of the fundamental infrastructure that underpins their IoT solutions to insulate themselves against threats.

For example, the cellular networks that many default to for connectivity do not inherently have an enhanced level of security, and in some cases organisations should look to other solutions, such as satellite connectivity. But until these core areas are mastered, with consumer trust and operational dangers sated, the transport sector will struggle to get the most out of IoT.

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