Maritime professionals expect disruptive incidents in the coming years, including impacts as serious as the closure of major ports and waterways.
The ‘NotPetya’ attack on Maersk represented a step-change in awareness about the severity of the cyber threat facing today’s maritime sector.
It started one morning when Maersk’s employees began receiving strange messages on their laptops – warning them that their files had been encrypted and could only be unlocked with a bitcoin payment worth $300. Two hours later, the company’s entire global network had been disconnected. Maersk was unable to process shipping orders until its systems were restored, freezing revenue from its container line business and contributing to a total loss of some $300 million.
Since this incident in 2017, shipping majors like Cosco, MSC and CMA CGM have all experienced high-profile attacks, with a flurry of incidents in the early 2020s taking e-commerce platforms and vital data centres offline. DNV experienced a ransomware cyber-attack on the servers of its ShipManager software in January 20236, and other organizations serving the maritime industry such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO)7 have also been targeted. The Port of Los Angeles recently announced that it records twice as many attacks as it did just a few years ago and must now contend with 40 million ransomware, malware and spear-phishing incidents each month.
Although events like these cause significant financial and reputational damage, arguably they don’t come
close to being a worst-case scenario for a cyber incident in the sector today. DNV’s new survey of 801 maritime professionals, carried out between March and April 2023, suggests that cyber-attacks could further disrupt global shipping and are even likely to threaten physical health and safety.