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Lessons from the CDK cyberattack: Minimizing the impact of systems failures for new car dealers

Last week, CDK Global, a major provider of management systems for car dealerships, suffered a significant cyberattack, shutting down critical systems for over 15,000 new car dealers. The immediate fallout from this incident underscores the importance of robust cybersecurity measures and system resilience. In this article, we’ll explore what new car dealers can learn from this disaster and how they can minimize the impact of future system failures. 

Impact of the CDK Cyberattack 

The CDK cyberattack was a sophisticated breach that targeted the company’s critical management systems. This attack led to widespread disruption, preventing dealerships from accessing essential tools for inventory management, sales processing, and customer relationship management, which may take weeks or longer to resolve. The consequences were immediate and severe: financial losses due to halted operations, customer dissatisfaction, and a scramble to restore normalcy. 

Critical Lessons for New Car Dealers 

Importance of Cybersecurity Measures 

One of the clearest lessons from the CDK attack is that dealers must use robust cybersecurity protocols to ensure their software and systems are regularly updated with the latest security patches to defend against vulnerabilities. Investing in advanced security technologies can help detect and neutralize threats before they cause significant damage. 

Employee Training and Awareness 

Human error is often the weakest link in cybersecurity. Therefore, educating employees about best practices, such as recognizing phishing attempts and handling sensitive information securely, is crucial. Regular training sessions and awareness programs can significantly reduce the risk of accidental breaches. 

Data Backup and Recovery Plans 

The CDK incident highlights the importance of solid data backup and recovery plans. Regular backups of critical data ensure dealerships can restore operations quickly after an attack. Testing these recovery plans regularly is essential to ensure they work effectively in an emergency. 

Incident Response Planning 

Creating a comprehensive incident response plan is vital for minimizing the impact of cyberattacks. This plan should outline the steps dealership team members must take immediately following a breach, including who to contact, how to contain the breach, and how to communicate with customers and stakeholders. Regular drills can help ensure that everyone knows their role in the event of an attack. 

Third-Party Vendor Management 

Dealerships must also pay close attention to the cybersecurity measures of their third-party vendors. Ensuring that vendors adhere to stringent security protocols and conducting regular audits can prevent vulnerabilities in the supply chain from affecting the dealership. 

Minimizing the Impact of Future Systems Failures 

Investing in Advanced Security Technologies 

To stay ahead of cyber threats, dealerships should invest in advanced security technologies. AI and machine learning can be used to detect unusual activity and potential threats in real-time. Implementing multi-factor authentication and encryption can also add layers of security to sensitive data and systems. 

Establishing Redundant Systems 

Having redundant systems in place is critical for business continuity. Backup servers and alternative communication channels can ensure that operations continue even if primary systems are compromised. This redundancy helps mitigate the impact of an attack and allows dealerships to maintain some level of functionality. 

Collaboration with Cybersecurity Experts 

Partnering with cybersecurity firms for regular assessments and updates can significantly enhance a dealership’s defenses. These experts can provide insights into emerging threats and recommend best practices for staying secure. 

Insurance and Financial Safeguards 

Investing in cyber insurance can provide financial protection in the event of a cyberattack. Preparing financial contingencies for potential disruptions can help mitigate the economic impact and ensure the dealership can recover swiftly. 

Actionable Steps for Dealerships 

In light of the CDK cyberattack, dealerships should take measures to secure their systems and data. Here are some actionable steps: 

  • Conduct a thorough cybersecurity audit to identify vulnerabilities. 
  • Update all software and systems with the latest security patches. 
  • Educate employees about cybersecurity best practices. 
  • Develop and test data backup and recovery plans. 
  • Create a comprehensive incident response plan and conduct regular drills. 
  • Ensure third-party vendors adhere to strict cybersecurity protocols. 
  • Invest in advanced security technologies and cyber insurance. 


The CDK cyberattack is a stark reminder of the importance of proactive cybersecurity and resilience planning, even at the dealership level. No organization is immune. By taking the necessary steps to protect against future attacks, dealerships can minimize disruptions, safeguard operations, and maintain customer trust.  

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Arthur Michalik
Arthur Michalik
Arthur Michalik: Even before graduating with a degree in Journalism, Art was already contributing to the automotive industry. He’s worked as a freelancer, staff writer, magazine editor, ad agency exec and Tier 1 marketing leader. Art focuses on developing engaging, informative content for several automotive-specific sites.

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