United States: Maritime Cyber Attacks: Changing Tides And The Need For Cybersecurity Regulations

Last Updated: October 23 2015
Article by Kate B. Belmont

Front-page headlines revealing devastating cyber attacks on government agencies and the world's largest companies have become a regular occurrence. Recent cyber attacks reported by the mainstream media include the cyber attack against SONY, Anthem Health Insurance, the White House, the Office of Personnel Management ("OPM"), Ashley Madison, and even the Houston Astros. As the list of companies and agencies that suffer cyber attacks grows longer, it is clear and undeniable that no industry is safe, and any company that relies on information and communication technology ("ICT"), must take the appropriate steps to protect itself against cyber threats. Although the maritime community has not yet garnered front-page attention as a victim of a recent cyber attack, make no mistake, the maritime industry is one of the most heavily targeted industries in the world and also suffers cyber attacks regularly.

Targeting the Maritime Community

Like many government agencies, as well as the aerospace and defense industry, banking and health insurance industries, and even the entertainment industry, the maritime industry is a prime target of cyber attacks and has suffered, and continues to suffer, many significant cyber attacks. The maritime community has been able to avoid disastrous media coverage regarding cyber attacks not because it is immune from cyber threats, lack of opportunity, or that the industry employs cutting- edge cybersecurity programs and effective protocols to protect itself from cyber attacks, but mostly because of luck, timing, and our tight-lipped community.

For example, the BP oil spill was not caused by hackers or cyber criminals, but it could have been, and such an event is likely to occur in the future. Yes, oil rigs are hackable. There have been multiple reports of oil rigs having been hacked, including at least one case where hackers were able to tilt the rig. Although no oil spill resulted, this should serve as a warning to the maritime community.

Likewise, the grounding and partial-sinking of the Costa Concordia appears to be the fault of human error, not because hackers manipulated the GPS, ECDIS, or AIS. But all vessels that rely on e-navigation and GPS, ECDIS, and AIS are susceptible to cyber attacks, and all such systems can be manipulated by hackers and cyber criminals. There have been recent accounts outlining how both airplanes and cars can be manipulated and controlled remotely by cyber hackers, due to reliance on ICT. Vessels are no exception. It is only a matter of time before the next headline of The New York Times alerts us to the recent grounding of a particular cruise ship, river-cruising vessel, ferry, or container ship due to the hacking of the vessel's e-navigation system.

Cyber threats are very real and the consequences of a hugely successful cyber attack in the maritime industry would be disastrous. However, cyber attacks have been happening in the maritime community for years, resulting in mostly financial losses, as opposed to loss of human life or severe damage to the environment, which is of particular concern to the maritime community. In addition to recent reports regarding the hacking of oil rigs and the manipulation of GPS, ECDIS, and AIS, the bunkering community and many shipping companies continue to suffer tremendous losses due to cyber attacks. For example, in December 2014, a major maritime company engaged in a deal to order a sea floor mining vessel in China on the back of a long-term charter. The maritime company reportedly pre-paid $10 million of the $18 million charterer's guarantee. Unfortunately, the company was a victim of a cyber attack as it unknowingly paid the deposit into a bank account that belonged to a cyber criminal. The matter was promptly referred to police authorities, who pursued an investigation. In an effort to better protect itself from future cyber attacks, the maritime company also engaged a cybersecurity firm to ensure the ongoing security of its networks and to investigate the source of the cyber attack. Similarly, as recently as this past August, hackers stole about $644,000 from a shipping company registered in Cyprus. The Limassolbased shipping company received an e-mail purportedly coming from their fuel supplier in Africa requesting that money owed be paid to a different bank account than usual. The shipping company complied, only to find out that they had been defrauded when they later received an e-mail from the fuel company asking for payment.

Cyber Regulations on the Horizon

Since the U.S. Government Accountability Office ("GAO") issued its 2014 report on maritime security outlining the maritime community's vulnerability to cyber attacks, the maritime community has slowly begun to recognize, acknowledge, and address the need for greater information sharing and the need to develop maritime cybersecurity regulations and guidelines. While the maritime industry does not currently have any cybersecurity regulations, change is on the horizon.

In 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard launched a year-long initiative to fully understand the cyber threats facing the industry, with the ultimate goal of developing cybersecurity guidelines. Midway through their initiative this past June, the Coast Guard issued a "Cyber Strategy," summarizing its vision for operating in the cyber domain. The Cyber Strategy discusses the Coast Guard's approach to defending cyberspace, including risk assessment and risk management and the strategic priority of protecting Maritime Critical Infrastructure, which includes ports, facilities, vessels, and related systems that facilitate trade within the United States. The Cyber Strategy offers a framework for the Coast Guard's plan to operate effectively and efficiently within the cyber domain.

In addition to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Round Table ("RT") group, comprising of BIMCO, ICS, Intercargo, and Intertanko, is also developing standards and guidelines to address cybersecurity issues in the industry. Acknowledging that all major systems onboard modern ships (main engine, steering, navigation systems, ballast water, and cargo handling equipment), are controlled and monitored by software and reliant on ICT, the RT group has committed to developing guidelines to assist the maritime industry to better protect itself from cyber attacks. It is reported that the RT group is in the final phase of developing a pattern for the maintenance and updating of electronic systems. Mr. Angus Frew, Secretary General of BIMCO, is noted as saying, "The standards under development are intended to enable equipment manufacturers, service personnel, yards, owners and operators, as well as crew, to ensure their shipboard computer-based systems are managed securely—and kept up-to date to protect against the ever-growing threat from exploitation by criminals."

Likewise, the IMO also has turned its attention to the very real threat of cyber attacks and the need for cybersecurity guidance and regulations. At the 95th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee ("MSC"), held this past June at the IMO headquarters in London, the MSC addressed the issue of cybersecurity extensively and agreed to work on guidelines on managing cyber-related risks onboard ships and in port facilities at MSC 96. Proposed amendments to the ISPS Code were discussed, but ultimately it was decided that more time would be needed to develop the appropriate guidelines—given the current ongoing work of the industry on cybersecurity—with the ultimate goal of submitting a draft proposal or set of guidelines to present and discuss at MSC 96.

Accepting the Reality of Cyber Crime

The maritime industry faces very real cyber threats and potentially devastating fall out from its failure to address and employ proper cybersecurity measures. While the industry has been somewhat hesitant to discuss these cyber threats, cyber attacks, and its subsequent losses, the reality of cyber attacks in the maritime industry can no longer be ignored or denied. Accordingly, the maritime industry is on the verge of great change.

The leaders of the maritime community around the world have acknowledged the threat of cyber attacks and have begun to develop cybersecurity guidelines and regulations. In the interim, cyber attacks will continue to inundate the maritime community. To avoid catastrophic losses and to avoid becoming another victim of cyber crime reported on the front page of The New York Times, it behooves all companies in the maritime industry to ensure they have the best cybersecurity protections available, and remain diligent in the fight against cyber crime. Cyber attacks are very real, and while regulations are on the horizon, cybersecurity protections are available to help guide us today.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.