“Reports that cyber hackers have successfully attacked COSCO Shipping Line’s Long Beach customer service centre, is very worrying indeed.
While COSCO shut down its connections as a precautionary measure, we have to emphasise that ships are not islands, they are not self-contained units. This is a mistaken belief. Shore- and ship-operations are cyber-connected.
If shore-based and ship-based IT systems are linked, it could open a gateway to the COSCO ships, leaving them highly susceptible to an attack. Vessels do not need to be attacked directly but an attack can arrive via the company’s shore-based IT systems and very easily penetrate the ships’ critical OT systems.
Although COSCO has been quick to respond to this hack, the virus may have been dormant for some time, so I would not be surprised if other systems – shore- and ship-based systems – have been breached.
This kind of attack could spread through the entire fleet and its consequences might be devastating, and certainly costly, especially in terms of insurance. We strongly recommend to whoever discovered the attack, to thoroughly verify the breach has been contained and has not infected any ships in the COSCO fleet.
This cyber-attack, like the Maersk attacks last year, will no doubt send shockwaves throughout the industry and encourage board members to take immediate, effective protection. Regulators need to implement workable rules and guidelines to help this vitally important global industry defend itself properly.”