Shipping analysts warn of cyberattacks at sea

A major cyberattack is on the horizon for the shipping industry, insurance analysts warned in a new report.

Hackers could interfere with the control of a ship, disable navigation systems, cut off communications or steal confidential data, according to Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE’s 2015 Safety and Shipping Review.


The report warned shipping firms to prepare for the likelihood of cyberattacks as hackers around the world become more sophisticated.

A lack of awareness could lead to major insurance costs down the road, particularly if an attack involves more than one vessel, they argued.

“Crews becoming smaller, ships becoming larger, and a growing reliance on automation all significantly exacerbate the risks from hackers disrupting key systems,” the report stated.

“The interconnectivity of the maritime sector means a cyberattack in a key location, such as a major port, for example, could impact much of the shipping industry.”

The warnings point to rising discussion of cyber threats across industries.

While banks and healthcare entities have long been aware of the threat from hackers, other sectors are just starting to grasp what a devastating cyberattack could do their reputations and bottom lines.

Ships and ports are vulnerable to attacks online much in the same way that U.S. weapons systems and critical infrastructure are.

A patchwork of different software products with varying levels of security can give cyberattackers an easy way in. Additionally, ships and ports could become targets for malware attacks that lead to the hijacking of their computer systems.

“Many of these e-navigation systems may be updated via the internet and if a false update is downloaded you will end up with a casualty,” AGCS Senior Marine
Risk Consultant and Master Mariner Jarek Klimczak said in the report.

“The navigation system is just one element of an integrated, complex information process which can be accessed directly, as well as from outside.”