Blog: CyberTruck Challenge: For Six Years, Educating the Talent to Stop Cyberattacks on Trucking

CyberTruckClassOf2022

Share This...

By: Colorado State University’s Associate Professor of Systems Engineering Dr. Jeremy Daily

“What NMFTA provides us with at CyberTruck Challenge ensures that we can execute the event properly.”

Dr. Jeremy Daily
Colorado State University

The trucking industry understands very well the threats it faces from leaks in cybersecurity. It’s one of the reasons the NMFTA is so vital to the industry as a source of strategies and insight on the issue.

Few could forget the 2018 ransomware attack on Eagan, Minnesota-based Bay & Bay Transportation. The hackers shut down the entire system used to manage the company’s fleet of 300 trucks and forced the company to pay a five-figure ransom in order to get the keys to unlock it.

CheckPoint reports that between June 2020 and June 2021, the transportation industry saw a 186 percent increase in weekly ransomware attacks.

NMFTA believes it should never take for granted that there is enough talent to serve the industry on this issue, which is why we are once again the lead sponsor of the 2023 CyberTruck Challenge.

Established in 2017, CyberTruck Challenge is happening for the sixth time in 2023, with this year’s festivities taking place from June 12-16 at the Macomb Community College Sports and Expo Center in Warren, Michigan. And while it will be hard to top 2022’s gathering with 47 students from 21 universities, the growing popularity of the event tells us to be ready for another big success.

CyberTruck Challenge has two primary objectives. The first is to develop the necessary talent that can come into the industry and deal with the cybersecurity challenges we face in transportation and LTL trucking. The second is to develop a community of interest that can work together to solve these problems on an ongoing basis.

The weeklong event features hands-on instruction that covers various aspects of heavy-vehicle cybersecurity. Some sessions are divided into three-hour blocks, with groups of students rotating among different activities.

And when we say hands-on, we’re talking about students taking their very first opportunity to sit behind the wheel of a truck, start it up and get a feel for it. Many of these students are computer science majors and have never seen a truck up close. This is a chance for them to learn what makes a truck a truck – where the electronic units are, how the truck communicates and other details of that nature.

Another common source of students we see at CyberTruck are recent members of the military, many of whom worked as diesel mechanics in the service. They know the vehicles, so CyberTruck Challenge is their opportunity to learn things like electrical engineering and computer science.

While students should have some technical skills, the main thing CyberTruck is looking for is enthusiasm – both for the event and for its mission.

One of the leaders of CyberTruck Challenge is Jeremy Daily, an associate professor at Colorado State University. He defines success for the event as taking two different forms, depending on the type of student to which it applies.

“For the newer student, success is when they get genuinely excited about doing this type of work, and from there they go back to school, stay focused and ask to come back,” Daily said. “They realize how much more they want to learn and they go seek that out. They come back the following year with marked improvement in their skill set, and the industry notices.”

Students in this group might move on to an internship in the industry, or possibly a full-time industry job as a security researcher.

A second tier of students, Daily said, realize something about themselves through their participation.

“In this tier, someone who is job searching or has experience in a graduate program realizes the skills they’ve been acquiring over the last few years actually have relevance,” Daily said. “And they pursue a career in cybersecurity for transportation. The ultimate success is when our industry sponsors hire the CyberTruck alumni. And we’re very excited to say that has happened.”

No one understands better than NMFTA how much the industry needs this kind of talent, which is why the organization has stepped up into such a strong sponsorship role of CyberTruck Challenge. That has included not only direct financial support, but also covering student lodging, meals and air fare for an event that brings in students from all over the United States and Canada.

NMFTA’s connections to major companies in the industry also ensure that the industry and the students will continue to work together when the event is concluded.

“What NMFTA provides us with at CyberTruck Challenge ensures that we can execute the event properly,” Daily said. “We obviously still have to seek other sponsorships, but because of NMFTA there is no doubt we will be able to have the event.”

In addition to NMFTA’s role as premier sponsor, support in 2022 came from Keysight Technologies and Geotab (platinum sponsors); Daimler, Bosch, Paccar, Volvo, Allison Transmission, Cummins, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Colorado State University (gold sponsors); and Munich RE, Navistar, Battelle, Bendix, DG Technologies, Auto-Isac, Calstart, AIS, the University of Detroit Mercy College of Engineering & Science and Macomb County Community College (silver sponsors).

Anyone who has witnessed the impact of cyberattacks on the trucking industry can understand how vital it is to develop this talent, which is exactly why all these organizations support CyberTruck Challenge.

Not only does it promise a thriving future for many of the students who attend, it offers a way forward for an industry that cannot allow itself to be crippled by hackers and ransomware criminals.

Visit www.cybertruckchallenge.org/contact/ if you would like to join in supporting CyberTruck Challenge, or if you know a student who would like to attend.