2024 Trends in Logistics Technology: The Tech Defense Against Cargo Theft & Fraud

January 15, 2024

April 29, 2024


x min read

The battle against cargo theft and fraud in 2023 was like a scene from an action movie—with a staggering 600% increase in crimes compared to the previous year. The situation highlighted that thieves have evolved; they are not just hiding in the shadows anymore. They have become bolder, more sophisticated, and sneakier, mastering digital avenues such as cyber scams, identity theft, and complex double-brokering cons.

Reflecting on this scenario brings to mind Mike Tyson's famous quote, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face." This surge in cargo theft wasn't just a minor issue, it was a major wake-up call—a true punch in the face for the logistics industry, underscoring the harsh reality that even the best-laid plans are not immune to unforeseen challenges and disruptions. With cargo theft becoming an increasingly serious concern, inflicting up to $30 billion a year in losses for trucking companies and retailers, it's clear that the industry needs to adapt swiftly.

That’s where cutting-edge technology comes into play—to bolster your defenses. From real-time tracking to software and analytics, now is the time to ensure you're always one step ahead of the bad guys. After all, if current trends continue, cargo theft could break records in 2024—challenging the industry to be ever more resilient and expect the unexpected.

Factors Driving the Rise in Cargo Theft & Freight Fraud

The steep rise in cargo theft and freight fraud is ringing alarm bells, spotlighting an urgent need for strategic action. To effectively tackle this growing threat, a multifaceted approach is essential, targeting several key factors.

Global Trade Expansion=Supply Chain Complexity

The increasing trend of "nearshoring," such as shifting manufacturing to Mexico to be closer to end markets, is a key driver in the growing complexity and expansion of supply chains. This nearshoring results in more cross-border movement and frequent changes in freight handling, creating additional opportunities for theft. Numerous touchpoints in the supply chain, such as during transportation, warehousing, and distribution, further heighten its complexity by providing opportunities for the interception or tampering of goods. For instance, cargo is particularly vulnerable when being transferred between different modes of transportation, like trucks, ships, or airplanes. Additionally, warehouses and distribution centers, as the top targeted locations, face frequent theft incidents due to the rapid flow of goods in and out, using a variety of transportation providers. This increased complexity, combined with insufficient monitoring and tracking systems, creates opportunities for theft at multiple points in the supply chain, making it more challenging for businesses to secure their cargo against sophisticated theft methods.

The Rise of Sophisticated Criminal Networks

Criminal networks involved in cargo theft have grown more sophisticated, leveraging technology and inside information to execute thefts. These networks often employ advanced methods to target shipments, such as hacking into transportation management systems, disrupting tracking signals, and gaining unauthorized access to sensitive information. The increasing use of technology in the supply chain has opened up new avenues for criminals to exploit vulnerabilities. For instance, in North America, port congestion and railhead delays have been seen as crucial factors in increasing the prevalence of cargo theft, as these delays lead to increased idle times and opportunities for theft. Moreover, the adoption of new technology-assisted criminal methods, facilitated by the increased digitalization of supply chain processes, presents a continuous challenge for companies trying to protect their cargo​.

An Industry on the Edge Turns to Double Brokering

The logistics industry is under significant pressure at the moment. With the current soft freight market characterized by a decrease in the movement of goods and a reduced demand for freight, the industry confronts plummeting rates and razor-thin operating margins for carriers, logistics service providers, and brokers​. So, in response, some agents resort to unethical practices, including double brokering. This method, which involves re-brokering a shipment to another company without the original broker's knowledge, aims to inflate profit margins deceitfully. It's becoming increasingly common, too: in the second quarter of 2023, 85% of freight brokers and carriers reported being impacted by double brokering. The financial toll of this practice is significant, with the estimated annual impact on the industry ranging between $500 and $700 million. And it’s getting worse; as evidenced by load board provider Truckstop, there was a 400% surge in double-brokering complaints between the fourth quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023 alone.    

Inaccurate Analytics Leaves Shippers Vulnerable

Inaccurate analytics and oversight in supply chain management are also significant contributors to cargo theft. Poor analytics practices can lead to gaps in monitoring and tracking, making it challenging to identify and prevent potential threats. Organized groups exploit these vulnerabilities—particularly in states including Illinois and California—by imposing additional, often exorbitant fees for various reasons, including overweight tickets or penalties supposedly charged to non-affiliated motor carriers​​​​.

Why Companies Still Struggle to Contain Cargo Theft

Despite efforts to enhance security, cargo theft is still here, and only worsening. Persistent issues make it more difficult for businesses to effectively protect their shipments. These challenges, often related to the intricacies of supply chain management, exacerbate the risk of theft and loss:

  • Inadequate Real-Time Visibility: Many companies lack real-time insights into their supply chains. Without a clear, up-to-the-minute understanding of freight position and status, companies are vulnerable to unexpected threats and cannot react swiftly to potential thefts.
  • Exploitation of Supply Chain Weaknesses: The gaps in visibility present opportunities for cargo thieves. These criminals often have a sophisticated understanding of supply chain weaknesses and exploit these to target high-value shipments. The average value of stolen cargo is alarmingly $260,703 per incident, emphasizing the severity of this issue.
  • Advanced Methods of Cargo Thieves: Modern cargo thieves employ advanced tactics to intercept or misdirect shipments. This sophistication in criminal approach has evolved with the advancements in supply chain technology, making it a continuously escalating threat.
  • Targeting of Specific Goods: Certain types of goods, such as electronics and pharmaceuticals, are particularly vulnerable due to their high market value and demand. These items are often less monitored or tracked efficiently, making them prime targets for theft.
  • Need for Enhanced Security Measures: The ongoing issues highlight the importance of implementing more robust security measures in the supply chain. Embracing real-time visibility solutions and other advanced security technologies is no longer optional but essential for companies to safeguard their cargo.

The Evolution of Supply Chain Attacks in 2024

Cyber threats, particularly those targeting supply chains, are evolving with increasing sophistication. Kaspersky's insights offer a glimpse into the future trends we might encounter in 2024. What should you keep an eye out for?

  • Compromise of open source software: Open source software, integral to many organizations, could become a prime target for attackers. By infiltrating these commonly-used resources, cybercriminals can potentially compromise the organizations relying on them.
  • Marketplace offerings for attack services: We might see the emergence of underground marketplaces offering “full access packages.” These services will provide comprehensive access to software vendors or IT service suppliers, essentially offering supply chain attacks as a managed service.
  • Attacks on managed file transfer solutions: With the increasing reliance on managed file transfer solutions by businesses, these systems are likely to become key targets for supply chain attacks—posing significant risks to data integrity and security.
  • Heightened focus on critical infrastructure: Attacks could increasingly target critical infrastructure, leading to broader implementation of Zero Trust frameworks. This approach assumes no internal or external entity is trustworthy by default—enhancing overall security posture.
  • Overall increase in supply chain attacks: Expect a general uptick in the frequency and severity of supply chain attacks. This increase will necessitate more robust and proactive cybersecurity measures across industries.

Building the Best Tech Defense in 2024

As we begin 2024, it's like we're in an episode of a Bond movie where the good guys–shippers and freight brokers–are upping their game to outsmart the bad guys involved in cargo theft and freight fraud. Thanks to evolving technology, the good guys now have the potential to build quite a line of defense—even as cargo thieves become more aggressive and intelligent.

Real-Time Tracking of Location & Conditions

GPS tracking technology and IoT devices do more than just pinpoint locations. They're like cargo’s pulse, constantly feeding real-time updates about where it is—and what condition it is in. Whether electronics that can't get too hot or medicines that need to stay cold, these systems keep an eye on everything—and it doesn't stop there. IoT sensors and RFID tags are like cargo's personal bodyguards, always on the lookout for anything fishy, including unauthorized access or unexpected detours.

Carrier Identity Software

With the rise in strategic theft—in which criminals pose as legitimate carriers—carrier identity software has become indispensable. This software cross-references carrier information against databases to ensure legitimacy, and tracks past performance and reliability. This method helps reduce the risk of fraud, and is particularly crucial given the 400% increase in criminal carriers exploiting truck brokerage operations over the past year.

Enhanced Analytics & Anomaly Detection

Think of AI and machine learning as the brains of the operation, analyzing heaps of data to sniff out patterns that scream “theft” or “fraud.” These technologies not only identify potential high-risk scenarios—such as unsafe routes or times for cargo transit—they also suggest safer alternatives. Their analytical prowess extends to scrutinizing abnormal behaviors and alerting companies to anomalies that could signal a security breach—such as unusual login activities, accessing atypical data, or unusual travel patterns.

In 2024, Shippers Leverage Integration Against Growing Cargo Theft

In 2024, the shipping industry is fighting back against cargo theft using a powerful blend of collaboration and cutting-edge technology. Shared platforms are at the heart of this transformation—bridging the gap between carriers, shippers, and authorities. These platforms aren't just about sharing information; they're creating a dynamic network that is constantly updating with the latest threats, trends, and best practices. It’s a new era of cooperation, marking a significant leap in proactive defense—and making the industry more resilient than ever against the persistent and growing challenge of cargo theft.

Integration is key in this fight, with advanced tracking, sophisticated analytics, and integrated systems—such as those offered by Tive—leading the charge. Tive's cloud platform represents the pinnacle of this technological evolution, offering a comprehensive approach to securing and optimizing your supply chain. From Tive Solo 5G trackers to industry-leading expertise and insights, it's an exciting time for shippers ready to embrace these advancements—and strengthen their operations against theft and fraud.

Interested in seeing how Tive can elevate your shipping and logistics? Book a demo with Tive, and step into the future of cargo security today.

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