U.S. Coast Guard Issues Alert After Ship Heading Into Port Of New York Hit By Cybersecurity attack

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The U.S. Coast Guard has issued an official warning to owners of ships that cybersecurity at sea needs updating, and updating urgently. In the Marine Safety Alert published June 8, the Coast Guard “strongly encourages” that cybersecurity assessments are conducted to “better understand the extent of their cyber vulnerabilities.” This follows an interagency investigation, led by the Coast Guard, into a “significant cyber incident” that had exposed critical control systems of a deep draft vessel bound for the Port of New York in February 2019 to what it called “significant vulnerabilities.”

The investigation concluded that the malware attack had: “significantly degraded the functionality of the onboard computer system.” This probably comes as a shock to most readers who may not consider ships and boats as targets for malware. However, it did not surprise the crew who, the Coast Guard alert insists, were well aware of “the security risk presented by the shipboard network.” This network is used to update electronic charts, manage cargo data, and communicate with shore-side facilities as well as the Coast Guard. Ethical Hacker John Opdenakker says he was “amazed” to hear that the crew well knew the security risk but “this didn’t result in the problems being addressed.” Not that Opdenakker is victim-blaming here, but instead pointing out that there should be a formal and mandatory requirement to inform the vessel operator of the issues.

What comes as a shock to me, if I am honest, is that the measures which the Coast Guard “strongly recommends” those responsible for these vessels are hardly advanced in nature. Indeed, they are of the kind I would expect most computer users to be aware of at home, school, and work. Nor is any of this mandatory, just recommended. That the list that follows was the outcome of the investigation speaks volumes for the lack of security awareness at sea.

This article originally appeared on To read the full article, click here.

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