Boats n’ woes: Cyberpirates are targeting the world’s biggest shipping boats

The concept of shipping — i.e., setting a massive container afloat on the open ocean for months at a time to reach a faraway land — seems archaic. But these days, the megaships transporting 18k 20’x8’ shipping containers apiece aren’t sailing on a hope and a prayer, they’ve got advanced nav systems to make sure […]


March 22, 2018

The concept of shipping — i.e., setting a massive container afloat on the open ocean for months at a time to reach a faraway land — seems archaic.

But these days, the megaships transporting 18k 20’x8’ shipping containers apiece aren’t sailing on a hope and a prayer, they’ve got advanced nav systems to make sure they get where they’re going — and a new brand of pirate gunning for their booty.

Hacks ahoy!

Now, on top of stormy seas, piracy, isolation, and political tension, crews have hackers to deal with.

Remember the massive malware outbreak “NotPetya” that held computers for ransom across the world last summer? Well, that little bug cost Danish shipping giant Maersk as much as $300m as they reinstalled software of “tens of thousands of PCs and servers” on their ships.

Companies focused on maritime cybersecurity have already started popping up to help companies protect the 10B tons of cargo shipped annually.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Aside from costing a $500B industry a few million doubloons, cyberpirates could also pull a Captain Phillips and commandeer the vessel, then ram it into another ship. 

They could also target luxury “superyachts,” which are especially vulnerable to navigation hacking via Wi-Fi, and extort their wealthy passengers.

And, if being stuck on a cruise ship with thousands of tourists doesn’t already sound like a nightmare, getting stuck on one that’s been hijacked definitely would be.

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