Maritime Cyber Security Is Equally Important On Land

The last year has found maritime shipping in the firing line from the threat cyber attacks and port infrastructure has never before been under such strain. The combined challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit mean that freight volumes are at an all-time high which has caused significant backlog with importers struggling to obtain their goods and factories pausing manufacturing lines due to a shortage of component parts.

Although this is not the result of any kind of malicious activity, it has certainly highlighted the significant impact that port disruptions can have on the wider economy. 

With the global shipping industry already under pressure, and the UK facing new challenges in 2021 as the Brexit transition period has ended, addressing the risk to port infrastructure from cyber-attack has never been more critical. Different classes of attackers have different motivations, depending on their objectives, and these can vary both between groups and over time. 

Criminal groups have realised that there is money to be made from targeting a company or organisation, stealing data and/or disabling key systems and demanding a ransom payment to restore operation or prevent further disclosure of sensitive information. By causing huge disruption they hope to pressure their victims into paying out to quickly restore operations. Due to the critical nature of ports, and the publicity and knock-on effects of disruption, ports are an attractive target, and may be viewed as being more likely to pay up.

Ports play a significant role in the regulation of the flow of people and goods into and out of a country, something smuggling groups need to evade. By getting access to data and systems within the port, they can get information on goods movements, or attempt to amend records to evade taxes and excise duties.

Nation states are continuously looking to further their own aims. Information held by ports such as passenger movements, goods flows or operational techniques can be hugely revealing to help build a better picture of activity in a country or region. 
Additionally, nation-states may also carry out intrusive and purposefully destructive activity to disrupt the flow of goods into a country in the event of a diplomatic dispute or other conflict. 

The ways in which technology and automation have been rapidly adopted to improve port operations and efficiency can only be a good thing. However, it is important that as it is adopted, the risks that it might introduce are considered in a holistic, and realistic way, commensurate with the threats present in the maritime environment.

Maritime-Executive:         Hellenic Shipping News:        Lloyds Register:       Lloyds Register

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