Cyber-Attacks on Major European & Global Seaports

Every industry, company, and organization that utilizes the internet, online software or hardware are subject to cyber-attacks. As the business world embraces technology more and more over the years, this risk grows along with more opportunities for hackers to attack.

There are a number of examples of cyber-attacks that have left the UK in complete disorder such as the WannaCry outbreak in May 2017. This global attack highlighted security vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows 7 operating system that was used across the NHS. 

This attack resulted in the cancellation of appointments, operations, and the relocation of emergency patients. Around 80 of the 236 NHS trusts were affected along with 603 primary care and other NHS organizations, including 595 GP practices and surgeries. Not only did this cause serious disruption as staff had to use a pen, paper, and personal mobiles, but it cost the NHS over £90m.

More recently, there have been a rising number of cyber attacks on major European and global seaports. The Port of Los Angeles has seen its number of cyber-attacks double since the pandemic. As one of the world’s busiest ports, they currently see around 40 million monthly attacks.

Currently part of an overall network of FBI cyber watch programs, they are taking every precaution against potential cyber-attacks. Other seaports that have been the victim of hackers and ransomware include South Africa, Kennewick, and Rotterdam.

In July 2021, Cape Town, Ngqura, Port Elizabeth and Durban ports felt the repercussions of an attack on the Transnet National Port Authority. The computer system was taken over and deemed completely unusable. 

Smaller than a commercial seaport, Kennewick port located on the Columbia River in Washington State was subject to an attack in November 2020. Access to their servers was completely locked and it took nearly a week to regain control.

The port of Rotterdam has invested a lot in the automation of its operational processes, therefore, increasing its reliance on its IT services. Unfortunately, in June 2017, it became infected by a modified version of the NotPetya ransomware where activities of two container terminals were completely paralyzed. 

Why are seaports targets for cyber-criminals? Due to moving millions of dollars worth of goods every year, they are targeted with the aim of causing as much disruption as possible. Cyber-attacks wish to slow down the economy and as technology is advancing, so are the methods that compromise cyber security.

Largely depending on software-based systems for operations, the maritime industry, along with other sectors that share this dependency, must take control of their cyber risk management. There’s no negotiation when it comes to hackers, so it’s vital the necessary vulnerability assessments are undertaken to protect and secure business-critical information.

Cyber security measures must be put into place and regular testing must be conducted to ensure organizations are safe against evolving cyber-attacks. No matter the size of the business, how reliant they are on technology, or what industry they reside in, cyber-attacks are real and serious for everyone. The risk is only growing, so the time is now to protect and defense is the best form of attack.

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