Cyber attacks have increased by up to 400% in the maritime sector so far this year. The maritime industry is a juicy target for cyber attacks, and even more so in times of pandemic.
It is very clear that the future of maritime transport lies in digitisation that guarantees more transparent and effective supply chains to make data available to the different participants. However, this also attracts cybercrime, groups who inflict offensive actions against IT systems to sabotage equipment or steal data.
The most common modus operando are phishing tactics, which means deceiving employees through emails calling them to carry out some sort of action that grants them entry to infiltrate the system. Next, a ransomware virus comes out to play, demanding a sum of money in exchange for returning control over the systems or stolen data.
NotPetya, the worst cyberattack
In 2017, Maersk suffered losses calculated at 300 million dollars in the worst known attack on the maritime sector. We are talking about NotPetya, a global ransomware that infected the company’s reservation system, leading to the congestion of 80 ports around the world.
At some of these ports, loading traffic and container operations were entirely disrupted. The automated terminal of Rotterdam was deactivated, and in New York and New Jersey, several electronic systems froze.
NotPetya was a noteworthy case, but not at all an isolated one. Since then, several cybernetic attacks have disrupted port and ship activity, leading to huge losses for companies.
In 2019, a ransomware attack affected the Port of San Diego, encoding several files and demanding a ransom in bitcoin. Shortly before this,COSCO had been infected with another similar virus that interrupted communication between clients, ships, terminals and providers.
Cybercrime and COVID-19
Cyber attacks have increased by up to 400% after the pandemic, according to Israeli cybersecurity firm Naval Dome. One of the most well-known was when shipbuilder MSC’s systems crashed when their data centre suffered an interruption.
A few key facts underlying this uptick in cybercrime during times of pandemic:
- Social distancing measures are preventing technicians from doing their job, updating and providing service to ship systems and platforms.
- The COVID-19 crisis is increasing the stress levels of teams and crews, making them more susceptible to cyber cons and other human errors.
- Increased remote logins from household networks and personal computers are not well-protected.
How to improve maritime cybersecurity
This is the time for the industry to take measures to protect itself from these cyberattacks. These are the points that industrial bodies (MSC, IMO) most emphasise as insurers:
- Professionalisation of IT departments in the industry, both in terms of technology and staff.
- Training: Most cyberattacks reach companies through their team. Education on IT security with protocols for action and good practises is necessary.
- Lastly, we must highlight the importance of collaboration between shipowners, ship operators, ship builders and port authorities, companies and police authorities.