Most of us don’t hear about ransomware in our daily lives. It’s often relegated to tech articles or new updates about subjects far removed from our personal interests. Yet ransomware looms over the trucking industry, and after a major incident last year, should be one of the primary concerns for drivers, fleet owners, and everyone associated with trucking directly or peripherally.

Maersk and Ransomware

Last year, international shipper AP Moller Maersk ran into an issue with ransomware that cost the company a minimum of $250 million. While Maersk conducts global operation, if they could be hit, we should not think domestic trucking companies are too small. The American trucking industry comprises over a third of the revenue generated in the country, and fleets remain targets for malicious hackers ranging from kids looking to prove their skills and scrape money, to larger organizations who want to hijack entire shipping companies.

What is Ransomware?

Think of ransomware as a more monetized computer virus. A basic computer virus will slow processes, prevent applications from running, and try to spread through email. Ransomware is a bit different. It enters a computer and outside observers can do anything ranging from tracking orders to recording keystrokes for passwords, and much worse. The observers will then offer to remove the virus for a large amount of money, to allow businesses to return to normal operations. The problem is that once hit, there’s always the looming threat that the hijackers could return because they are familiar with weaknesses in the fleet’s security system. There have even been reports of hijackers taking over ELDs and GPS devices.

What Can Truckers Do?

One of the first strategies for ransomware hijackers is to send out an inconspicuous email to try and get people to click on it. The malware will then infect the devices carrying the email and spread to those in the contacts lists. Organizations like the ATA’s Fleet CyWatch try to stay on top of potential infections to keep truckers safe. For now, if any email looks suspicious, leave it alone, and bring it to someone’s attention. Ransomware is not a new game, but the methods have become more advanced and harder to detect. Since malware can do everything from shutting down computers to reducing the number of logged hours for truckers, the threat is very high, and all precautions should be taken to prevent an infection.