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Cyber Incidents Targeting Commercial Vessels Highlight Need for Comprehensive Cyber Risk Management

Three spear phishing attempts outlined below indicate a troubling trend toward targeting cargo vessels while underway.

Incident Number 1:  On January 26th 2019, a commercial vessel received an email from an individual or entity claiming to represent an official Port State Control body. The email originated from an email address noted as “[email protected]” and was sent directly to the vessel’s Captain requesting sensitive information about the vessel, its crew, and its cargo.

The vessel’s master was rightfully skeptical about the request and immediately activated elements of the vessel security plan related to this type of suspicious cyber incident.  The vessel’s Captain reported the incident and forwarded the suspicious email and information to the local USCG Captain of the Port (COTP) for investigation and follow-up.

Incident Number 2:  On March 14th, 2019, a different commercial vessel operating in the same area as the previous incident received a SAT-C message by email via the ships Global Marine Distress Satellite System (GMDSS) from an originator claiming to be a U.S. port-specific Port State Control entity.  The nature of the inquiry was more direct, requesting information on the nature of the cargo.  Specifically, whether the vessel had explosive or radioactive cargo aboard.

Read more at the National Maritime Law Enforcement Academy

Coast Guard ‘Cyber Boarding’ Shows Online Risks to Maritime Sector

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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