By Charlie Bartlett from London
In a world where young men are willing to pounce on VLCCs using only guts, wooden boats and rusty Kalashnikovs, the threat to shipping and maritime may now also be coming in a much more subtle manner from the computer hacker.
Cyber security may be right at the top of the international agenda, exemplified by Barack Obama’s 2013 statement that the “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face”. But – like most things cyber – shipping has not been taking it particularly seriously until recently. Last week, International Maritime Bureau took time out of battling corporeal pirates to warn shipping about the risks of digital ones, which warned shipping is becoming the “next playground for hackers”.
In fact, it arguably has been for some time, after it was discovered in October last year that for two years, hackers had been intercepting drug shipments at the Port of Antwerp and disappearing containers from its systems.
Later that month it was found that, using less-than-$1,000 technology, hackers could interfere with easily-accessible ship AIS systems to make entire ships disappear altogether from tracking systems, make non-existent vessels appear, or in this particular case make a ship’s reported course spell out “PWNED” (or “I own you” in online gaming parlance).
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Maritime Security News Note:
It’s interesting that cyber security has suddenly become the new focus in maritime security, just as piracy seems to be under control off Somalia. A more cynical person might suggest that this is because various PMSCs and bodies are hurriedly investigating new revenue streams. We would never stoop so low.