Maritime Shipping Is An Ideal Target For Ransom

The maritime industry is often dependent on just-in-time supply chains, and often old technology and this is making shipping a very attractive target for cyber criminals. 

Ransomware attacks against the shipping industry have tripled in the past year, as cyber criminals to make money from ransom payments. Analysis by cyber security company BlueVoyant has found that ransomware attacks are increasingly targeting shipping firms at a time when the global COVID-19 pandemic means that their services are required more than ever before.

Ransomware attacks have become a serious issue for all organisations in every type of industry, but a successful attack against a company could potentially mean chaos and an extremely lucrative payday for attackers. It is undisputed that the largest cyber security threat facing supply chain and logistics companies today is neither nation-state attacks nor data breach information for sale on the dark web; it is ransomware.

The Blue Voyant Report shows that from 2019 to 2020, ransomware attacks on shipping and logistics firms tripled, with almost all attacks resulting from phishing or exploitation of open remote desktop ports, making the sector especially vulnerable during the critical global vaccine rollout.

Key Report Findings:

  • Ransomware is the No. 1 cyber threat to logistics companies today, suggesting a situation of imminent and extreme risk.
  • Malicious actors are keenly interested in logistics companies. 100% of the companies assessed saw some evidence of threat targeting against their network.
  • Despite the risks of ransomware attacks, 90% of the organizations studied were found to have open remote desktop or administration ports and insufficient email security, the primary vulnerabilities to ransomware gangs.

Shipping companies are often very sizable businesses that are easily effected by any disruption and this makes them targets for cyber ransomware gangs.

2017's NotPetya cyber-attack demonstrated the amount of disruption that can occur in these scenarios, and Maersk got globally cyber attacked in an incident that cost hundreds of millions in losses. But despite this high profile cyber event demonstrating the need for good cybersecurity strategy, according to BlueVoyant's report, shipping and logistics companies need to "dramatically" improve IT hygiene and email security to make networks more resilient against ransomware and other cyber attacks.

That includes fixing vulnerabilities in remote desktops or ports, something that 90% of the organisations studied in the research were found to have. Problems like unpatched software or using default or common login credentials can provider cyber attackers with relatively simple access to networks.

In some cases, it isn't ransomware groups that are breaching logistics and shipping companies, but merely opportunistic cyber criminals who know they'll be able to sell the credentials on for others to use to commit attacks. 

High-profile cargo like the COVID-19 vaccine, and the data that goes with it, make shipping and logistics companies high-value targets to cyber criminal and national state actors aiming to disrupt government efforts and steal sought-after vaccine data.

Shipping companies have vast networks, but there are cyber security procedures that can improve their defences against cyber-attacks. These include securing port and network configuration so that default or easy-to-guess credentials aren't used and to, where possible, secure the accounts with two-factor authentication.

Organisations should also update and patch software in a timely manner so cyber criminals can't take advantage of known vulnerabilities to gain access to networks. Using open-source data and proprietary research, BlueVoyant assessed 20 of the top global shipping and logistics companies to understand their vulnerability to ransomware and other disruptive attacks.

The results indicate the growing threats facing the sector, specifically the disproportionate impact of rising ransomware attacks, capable of bringing businesses that operate technology-driven and highly automated ‘just-in-time’ delivery schedules to a standstill.

BlueVoyant:          ZDNet:       Yahoo:      Waysudin:        Image: Unsplash

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