Silent Storm: Warning Bells in Maritime

  • Research : Maritime
  • Target: Ports
  • Target: Shipownerships
  • Status : Complete
  • Date : 10 Oct 2023
  • Country : All

Are you Ready new research?

Contact us

Digital Piracy on the Seas: Contemporary Threats in Ship and Port Security

Cybersecurity in ships is a matter of vital importance for the global maritime industry today. In an era where traditional maritime activities are increasingly intertwined with modern technology and automation systems, the threats to cyber security are also significantly on the rise. In this article, we will delve deeply into the importance of cybersecurity in ports and ships, potential threats, the possible consequences of these threats, and the measures that need to be taken against these threats.

The famous Turkish sailor Barbaros' saying, "He who dominates the seas dominates the world," can be updated today as, "He who owns the datas dominates the world."

A threat actor can significantly threaten the maritime industry by disrupting navigation systems and manipulating operational data. This not only jeopardizes ship safety but also weakens companies' competitive positions and shakes their reputation. Therefore, the industry must counter these threats by adopting and updating robust cybersecurity measures.

Main Targets of Threat Actors;
  • Cargo Tracking and Management
  • Navigation Systems
  • Operational Technology Systems
  • Communication Systems
  • Ransomware Attacks
  • SCADA Systems
Contemporary Threats in Ship and Port Security!

VulnSign October Month Research

VulnSign's comprehensive research in October focuses on the increasingly digital nature of the maritime sector. Any disruption in digital operations can result not only in financial losses but also significant strategic setbacks and operational downtimes. Aware of this potential, threat actors are targeting ship and port infrastructures, raising serious cybersecurity concerns for the industry.

Cyber Maritime: The Cyber Risks Facing High-Tech Ships

Today's ships rely on advanced technology and network-connected systems for navigation, cargo tracking, deck operations, communication, and many other functions. These systems have become attractive targets for cyber attackers, bringing along a range of threats such as ransomware, malware, data theft, and even the hijacking of a ship’s operational control.

The consequences of cyber attacks can be devastating. A compromise in a ship's navigation system can lead to serious accidents, loss of cargo, environmental disasters, and even the risk of loss of human life. Additionally, pirates and terrorists can pose threats to national security by targeting ships and port facilities.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other regulatory bodies have made it mandatory for ship operators to establish and implement cyber security management systems. These systems should include risk assessment, threat detection, response procedures, and regular training. Compliance is not only a legal necessity but also vital for maintaining a ship's operational integrity.

Cyber security cannot be ensured with technological measures alone; crew awareness and training are also critical components of this equation. Crews need to be regularly trained on cyber hygiene, increasing awareness against social engineering attacks, and informed about emergency procedures.

Ship operators should adopt a proactive approach and use continuous cyber security monitoring systems. Detecting abnormal network traffic, regularly assessing security vulnerabilities, and timely applying updates and patches can prevent or minimize the effects of a potential cyber attack.

Ships and ports have been the targets of cyber attacks, and these incidents can take various forms. Here are a few examples:

  • Maersk's NotPetya Attack: In 2017, the global shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk fell victim to a cyber attack by a piece of malware known as NotPetya. This attack affected the company's operational systems and terminals, leading to disruptions worldwide. As a result of the attack, Maersk reported losses of millions of dollars, highlighting the vulnerability of ship and port operations in terms of cyber security.
  • Cyber Attack on COSCO: In 2018, China's state-owned shipping and logistics company COSCO suffered a cyber attack targeting its North American operations. The attack affected email and other internal communication systems, causing disruptions in operations.
  • Iran's Bandar Abbas Port: In 2020, Iran's largest port, Bandar Abbas, experienced significant disruption due to a cyber attack. This attack seriously disrupted port operations and had a significant impact on commercial activities.
  • Information Theft and Espionage: Additionally, espionage activities carried out by cybercriminals and rival states, aiming to steal trade secrets and strategic information, can also pose a serious threat to ship operators and ports.

Passenger ships, especially cruise ships, can be particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks because they operate like floating cities and encompass many technologies. Cybersecurity threats on these ships can endanger both the personal safety of passengers and the operational security of the vessel. Here are some of these threats:

  • Personal Data Theft
  • Navigation Systems
  • Ticketing and Reservation Systems
  • Ransomware
  • Wireless Networks and Bluetooth
  • Convergence of OT/IT Systems

Cybersecurity is a critically important issue for ships transporting oil, chemicals, and other hazardous cargoes. These vessels are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks because they carry substances that pose significant environmental and human health risks. Here are some cybersecurity threats for these ships.

  • Manipulation of Navigation Systems
  • Attack on Critical Control Systems
  • Sabotaging Communication
  • Attack on Energy Systems
  • Mismanagement of Hazardous Materials
  • Malware and Ransomware

Captains on ships must maintain constant communication with the company/shipowner and the cargo owner or charterer to ensure the smooth operation of ship activities. This communication occurs through various electronic and cyber mediums, making it susceptible to cyber threats. Here are potential risks this communication might face in terms of cybersecurity and ways to protect against them:

  • Email Security
  • Insecure Networks
  • Dissemination of False Information
  • Malware and Ransomware
  • Sabotaging Communication