Have you ever seen the bridge of a commercial cargo shipping vessel? It is like a dream come true for every kid out there–a gigantic PlayStation. Unfortunately, maritime computer systems are also attractive to malicious cyber actors.

Illustrating this interest by malicious individuals, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a safety alert warning all shipping companies of maritime cyber attacks. The incident that led to this warning happened in February 2019 when a large ship on an international voyage bound for the Port of New York and New Jersey reported “a significant cyber incident impacting their shipboard network.”

The Coast Guard led an incident-response team to investigate the issue and found that “although the malware significantly degraded the functionality of the onboard computer system, essential vessel control systems had not been impacted.” The shipboard network was used for official business like updating electronic charts, managing cargo data and communicating with shore-side facilities, pilots, agents and the Coast Guard.

Despite the significance of the onboard computer systems, the Coast Guard investigation found that “the vessel was operating without effective cybersecurity measures in place, exposing critical vessel control systems to significant vulnerabilities.” For this reason, the alert strongly recommends that commercial vessels improve their cybersecurity such as by segmenting shipboard networks, enforcing per-user passwords and roles, installing basic security protections and patching regularly.

This isn’t the first time the US Coast Guard has released a cyber safety warning. In May 2019, they released a bulletin to raise the awareness of maritime stakeholders “of recent email phishing and malware intrusion attempts that targeted commercial vessels.” In accordance with the same bulletin, “Cyber adversaries are attempting to gain sensitive information including the content of an official Notice of Arrival (NOA) using email addresses that pose as an official Port State (Read more...)