The Coronavirus pandemic is leaving the maritime and offshore energy sectors vulnerable to cyber-attack, with the maritime security firm Naval Dome citing a massive 400% increase in attempted hacks since February 2020.
An increase in malware, ransomware and phishing emails exploiting the Covid19 crisis is the primary reason behind the spike. Naval Dome says that travel restrictions, social distancing measures and economic recession are beginning to bite into a company’s ability to sufficiently protect itself.
The global crisis and social distancing measures are preventing specialist maritime technicians flying out to ships and oil rigs to upgrade and service critical systems, resulting in operators circumventing established security protocols, leaving them open to attack.
IT and other maritime Operating systems (OT) are no longer segregated and individual endpoints, critical systems and components may become vulnerable. Some of these are legacy systems which have no security update patches and are even more vulnerable.
The economic downturn and the drop in the price of crude oil is also having an effect, with oil companies and contractors being faced with limited budgets available to implement effective cyber security measures. The Mission to Seafarers has published a COVID-19 special issue of its Seafarer Happiness Index report, which shows a growing feeling of confusion from crew changing as the landscape shifts around them. According to the report, shore leave, which is already a problematic issue, has become even more difficult for seafarers as ports are locked down and there are fears of contracting the virus.
Seafarers also reported feeling that not enough is being done to ensure the safety of those onboard and a feeling of loneliness, physical and mental exhaustion, and homesickness.
A report, written by the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies last year, called the Shen Attack: Cyber risk in Asia Pacific Ports, says that a cyber attack on ports could cause substantial economic damage to a wide range of business sectors globally due to the inter-connectivity of the maritime supply chain.
The combination of ageing shipping infrastructure and complex supply chains makes the shipping industry vulnerable to attack and consequentially huge losses.
While the Shen attack is not a definitive forecast, it does highlight the need for vigilance in an industry that could be brought to its knees by a cyber event originating in Asia and spreading to Europe, America and the rest of the world.
The report is the second publication from the Cyber Risk Management project, the Singapore-based public-private initiative that assesses cyber risks, of which Lloyd’s is one of the founding members. Shen Attack estimates that losses of up to $110 billion would occur in an extreme scenario in which a computer virus infects 15 ports. Transportation, aviation and aerospace sectors would be the most affected ($28.2 billion total economic losses), followed by manufacturing ($23.6 billion) and retail ($18.5 billion).