In September 2020, CMA CGM, the world’s fourth-largest container shipping company, announced that it had experienced a cyber breach. Initially stating that its systems security hadn’t been compromised, a few days later, it had to declare that it was working on a plan to get access back to its systems. A few years ago, this kind of news would have been unheard of, however organisations publicly declaring that they have suffered a cyber breach is becoming almost an everyday occurrence.
Due to the openness and interconnected nature of the Internet, hackers or hacking groups are carrying out untargeted attacks, without any consideration for damage inflicted upon maritime organisations. These attacks can be delivered as phishing attacks, water holing, ransomware, or scanning and are relatively easy for hackers to administer. What’s more, their chances of being apprehended are almost non-existent, meaning the fight against cybercrime is one of a continuous nature.
One of the key areas of cyber-vulnerability in the shipping industry is the ships themselves. Until recently, ships were running legacy systems with relatively small IT networks and a segregated OT (operational technology) network. The ships OT network is closed off from the outside world with limited access to it, usually only physically accessible by the Captain and senior crew. Due to digitalisation in the industry and the convergence of IT and OT, there is now a focus on extracting key data from OT systems, sending it to the cloud, so that data analytics can be carried out in real-time. Such digital developments have created an additional level of risk for shipping companies to consider and have transformed vessels into remote offices more than ever before.
Over the last three years, there has been a staggering 900% increase in cyber-attacks on the operational technology of maritime organisations, in which some of the largest shipping companies in the world have been the victim. We’ve seen a number of reported cyber-incidents this year alone. Carnival Cruise Line, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), and the Toll Group have all been in the limelight for cyber-attacks, inflicting not only operational and economic…