Increased cyber-attacks during COVID-19 highlights maritime industry vulnerabilities

Cyber security. Hooded computer hacker using tablet computer with glith effect. Credit: natasaadzic/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

A reported 400% uptick in cyber crime during the pandemic highlights the vulnerabilities caused by new ways of working amid COVID-19 and the industry’s approach to digitalisation

Pandemic-fuelled disruption to global shipping supply chains has forced the shipping sector to rapidly recalibrate to increase the focus on employee safety and wellbeing, to maintain operations, and to adapt processes to keep trade flowing.

Just as maritime companies struggle with these new challenges, cyber criminals have also changed their priorities to exploit the turmoil. They are finding new ways to infiltrate vessel- and shore-based IT networks to steal data and money or cause disruption. According to Israeli cyber-security company Naval Dome, there was a 400% increase in attempted hacks between February and May 2020, with noted increases in malware, ransomware, and phishing emails. The company released this finding in early June this year.

An upswing in incidents was also revealed in the 2020 Maritime Cyber Security Survey, carried out by SAS and BIMCO, with 31% of organisations saying they had experienced a cyber incident in the 12 months prior to taking the survey in February 2020, versus 22% that took the survey in 2019.

Changes to normal life have created the circumstances for cyber crime to flourish. Professor Kevin Jones, executive dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom, told SAS, “The world situation has meant lots of people are unable to perform their normal activities, which has resulted in more people involved in cyber crime and an increase in the volume of attacks”.

This is an excerpt of the SAS October edition. To have access to the full article, and more SAS features, please subscribe here.