Challenging Landscape: Rising Cybersecurity Threats In Maritime Industry


Cybersecurity in the maritime industry is becoming increasingly crucial as vessels, ports, and supply chains embrace digitalization. With the integration of IoT (Internet of Things) devices, automation, and interconnected systems, the sector faces a growing threat landscape that includes risks such as data breaches, ransomware attacks, and sabotage attempts.

Rise In Cyberattacks 

According to the European Union Agency for Cyber Security, this shift is accompanied by a notable rise in cyberattacks targeting critical maritime infrastructure like ports and shipping firms, underscoring the necessity for enhanced focus and action on maritime cybersecurity.

The report utilizes the ENISA Cybersecurity Threat Landscape Methodology, analyzing a total of 98 publicly reported incidents during the specified timeframe. Data collection primarily focuses on EU member states and extends to global incidents impacting the EU. Major incidents were identified through open-source intelligence (OSINT) and cyber threat intelligence capabilities.

Probing The Primary Threats 

  • ransomware attacks (38%): a type of attack where threat actors take control of a target’s assets and demand a ransom in exchange for the return of the asset’s availability
  • data related threats (30%): Sources of data are being targeted with the aim of unauthorized access and disclosure and manipulating data to interfere with the behavior of systems.
  • malware (17%): Malware is an overarching term used to describe any software or firmware intended to perform an unauthorized process that will hurt the confidentiality, integrity or availability of a system.
  • denial-of-service (DoS), distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), and ransom denial-of-service (RDoS) attacks (16%): Availability is the target of a plethora of threats and attacks, among which DDoS stands out. DDoS attacks target system and data availability and, though not a new threat, have a significant role in the cybersecurity threat landscape of the transport sector.
  • phishing/spear phishing (10%): Social engineering encompasses a broad range of activities that attempt to exploit a human error or human behaviour to gain access to information or services.
  • supply-chain attacks (10%): A supply-chain attack targets the relationship between organizations and their suppliers.

Trends Identified 

During the reporting period, the threat actors with the biggest impact on the sector were state-sponsored, cybercriminals and hacktivists. We observed the following trends:

  • Ransomware attacks became a prominent threat against the sector in 2022. Ransomware has been steadily increasing and the transport sector has been affected similarly to the other sectors.
  • Cybercriminals are responsible for the majority of attacks on the transport sector (54%), and they target all subsectors.
  • Threat actors will increasingly conduct ransomware attacks with not only monetary motivations.
  • The increased hacktivist activity targeting the transport sector is likely to continue.
  • The increasing rate of DDoS attacks targeting the transport sector is likely to continue.
  • The main targets of DDoS attacks by hacktivists are European airports, railways, and transport authorities.
  • During this reporting period, we did not receive reliable information on a cyberattack affecting the safety of transport.
  • The majority of attacks on the transport sector target information technology (IT) systems. Operational disruptions can occur as a consequence of these attacks, but operational technology (OT) systems are rarely being targeted.
  • Ransomware groups will likely target and disrupt OT operations in the foreseeable future.

According to the report, in 2022, ransomware attacks emerged as the primary threat to the sector, surpassing the data-related threats that dominated in 2021. Nevertheless, ransomware groups are still seen as opportunistic and not specifically targeting the transport sector more than others. Recent trends suggest no notable increase in ransomware attacks targeting transportation compared to other sectors. Ransomware incidents have been on the rise overall, affecting the transport sector in line with other industries.

Current Scenario 

The issuance of the Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) by the US Coast Guard (USCG) in March 2024 underscores the critical importance of cybersecurity in the maritime sector. With cyber incidents such as ransomware attacks, data breaches, and IT disruptions becoming the primary concern for companies globally, as highlighted in the Allianz Risk Barometer 2024, the maritime industry is not immune to these threats.

As the maritime sector increasingly relies on digital technologies for navigation, communication, and operational efficiency, it becomes more vulnerable to cyber threats. A breach in cybersecurity could not only disrupt operations but also compromise the safety and security of vessels, crew, and cargo.

Moreover, in the broader context outlined in the Global Risks Report, rapid technological change presents both opportunities and challenges. While advancements in technology enhance efficiency and connectivity, they also introduce new vulnerabilities and risks. Economic uncertainty, exacerbated by factors such as geopolitical tensions and climate change, further complicates the landscape.

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Source: Safety4sea


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