The British Ports Association and the UK-based risk management firm Astaara have released a new study on the wave of cyberattacks seen by maritime stakeholders over the past four months.
In one high profile attack in May, computer systems at Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port facility at Bandar Abbas, creating traffic jams and serious operational disruption. Astaara believes that the attack came in direct response to a failed Iranian cyberattack on an Israeli water facility in April. (Iran has denied any involvement in the earlier incident.) U.S. officials told the Washington Post that Israeli forces orchestrated the retaliatory hack on Shahid Rajaee.
While attacks from criminal groups are far more common than suspected state-sponsored hacking, the overall upward trend is driving increased interest in security, according to Astaara. “Now, more than ever, the advantages of [digitalization] should be capable of being realized, but only if the corresponding management resilience and recovery plans are in place and practiced,” said Robert Dorey, CEO of Astaara. “Processes need to be continually reviewed and updated as necessary, training provided, and new approaches to monitoring assessed and adopted.”
He noted that the new remote-work alternatives to standard operations like surveys and marine superintendent spot inspections have created new vulnerabilities for shipowners. Remote working has been identified as a major risk for security, as the attack surface is broadened.
Criminals realize this and do not care about the human cost of Covid-19, or their crimes. They are not interested in the morality of their action. Instead they are interested in disruption and making money; they see Covid-19 as an opportunity,” said Dorey.
According to Astaara, the way to fight back is to practice basic cyber hygiene and to invest an appropriate amount in security. Currently, cybercrime nets around $2 trillion per year for criminals worldwide – compared with the $150 billion a year spent by companies and individuals in protecting systems. “When you have ever more stringent regulations, a user population that is innovative in breaking the rules, and an external environment that is hostile to say the least, you cannot afford not to invest in your security, and to protect those aspects of business that depend on others for their delivery,” Astaara and BPA advised in the white paper.