You Need to Protect Vehicle Data with Better Telematics Security


By Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine

Vehicle fleets are becoming increasingly interconnected. Fleet tracking technologies, predictive maintenance sensors and more have seen surging adoption in the past few years, but they bring new risks with their benefits. Telematics security should be at the top of every fleet manager’s mind.

Telematics data has gone far beyond GPS location information. As internet of things (IoT) devices provide more insight and control into vehicles and their cargo, new opportunities for cybercriminals emerge.

The Need for Better Telematics Security

As with any industrial IoT use case, more endpoints in fleet management systems create more potential gateways for attackers. In 2019, a hacker was able to track more than 20,000 vehicles after infiltrating the company’s fleet management software. As these systems carry more valuable data, these attacks can cause more damage.

Attackers could use unprotected fleet tracking devices as an entry point to other, more sensitive devices and data on the same network. They could hold customers’ personal information or mission-critical data for ransom, shut down connected machinery or install malware on company systems. Alternatively, they could delete or distort telematics data to disrupt supply chain operations. Fleet management technology is one of the best ways to reduce operating expenses. Security must improve as companies expand their investment in these technologies.

Telematics Data Security Considerations

Telematics security can be complicated, especially considering how these systems often lack sufficient built-in protections. However, organizations can and should take steps to protect these devices and their data. Here are five critical considerations for securing fleet tracking systems.

On-Device Protections

Telematics systems should ensure security from the start by choosing devices with stronger hardware and firmware defenses. Many IoT devices automatically connect with other devices on the network by default, have weak or disabled default passwords and minimal over-the-air (OTA) update security. Fleets should avoid these vulnerabilities and look for safer IoT designs.

Fleets should look for telematics devices with stronger password controls, multifactor authentication (MFA) support, built-in encryption, OTA digital signatures and strong cryptography features. It’s important to ask manufacturers about how they assure security before buying their products, too. As more fleets demand higher security from telematics vendors, on-device security standards will rise.

These higher standards may narrow fleets’ available options today, but that will change as the market matures. Telematics data breach costs are also too high to justify less secure devices.

Data Encryption

Secure data transfer is foundational to telematics security. Since fleet tracking and management solutions rely on remote data access, sensitive information can easily become vulnerable in transit. Consequently, fleets should look for in-transit encryption solutions, not just at-rest protection.

Some devices will have in-transit and at-rest encryption built-in, but fleets can’t rely on these features. While they should prefer devices with these protections, it’s best to go further to ensure maximum security. That means using encrypted communications channels on top of on-device features.

5G networks are promising, as they encrypt more data than earlier standards and feature anti-tracking and spoofing measures. However, their limited coverage may introduce vulnerabilities. Fleets must determine which network protocols best fit their encryption needs. 

Access Privilege Restrictions

Another crucial aspect of telematics data security is restricting device and data access. Supply chain attacks are so damaging because these networks involve so many parties that can provide access to other systems and data. Limiting what users, apps and endpoints can access mitigates these vulnerabilities.

Fleet tracking solutions should follow the principle of least privilege. Everything and everyone should only be able to access what they need for their specific roles. The less a user can access, the less damaging a breach of their account will be.

In IoT networks like fleet management systems, this entails network segmentation. Run telematics devices on separate networks from other systems to create a physical separation between them and other devices. That way, a breach in the telematics system can’t affect the business’s other digital assets.

Employee Training

While technical defenses are crucial, they don’t provide sufficient protection by themselves. Fleets must also implement behavioral security steps. The most important aspect of this side of telematics security is training employees.

Human error accounts for 85% of data breaches, so more comprehensive security training can prevent many successful attacks. Companies should train any employee with access to any telematics data in cybersecurity best practices, including strong password management and spotting phishing attempts.

This training should include regular refreshers and assessments, too. Repetition will help employees remember best practices, and tests will reveal areas that need improvement to address in future sessions.

Monitoring and Testing

Telematics data security also requires ongoing monitoring and testing. Since cybercrime is continually evolving, a breach can occur in any system, regardless of its existing protections. Continuous monitoring will uncover and highlight irregularities to enable faster, more effective responses.

Fleets should implement autonomous network monitoring tools to alert IT staff to any anomalies. Machine learning systems like this are typically far faster and more accurate at this work than humans, and they enable continuous monitoring without large security departments. When they find a potential breach, human workers can then look into it to see if mitigation measures are necessary.

Similarly, telematics security strategies should also involve regular testing. Annual or semi-annual penetration tests can help fleets identify vulnerabilities to address, enabling ongoing security improvements.

Telematics Security Is Essential

Fleet tracking technologies are a crucial business asset today, but companies must manage their risks to experience their benefits fully. Consequently, strong telematics security is essential for effective fleet management.

Fleets should ensure they consider these five categories in their fleet security plans. They can then use these cutting-edge systems to their fullest potential.


Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. A regular contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine, she has over four years of experience writing articles in the industrial sector.

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