Maritime Cybersecurity: Prepare, Detect, and Respond

Vanessa C. DiDomenico

At a time when the world has become more aware than ever before about the vital importance of the world’s ocean shipping fleet, which carried supplies, merchandise, and much-needed personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, an increased risk from a different threat, cyberattacks, presents a set of new challenges.

Increase in Maritime- and Energy-Related Cyber Attacks

According to Israeli cybersecurity specialist Naval Dome, since February 2020, there has been a 400-percent increase in attempted hacks on the maritime realm, coinciding with a period when the maritime industry turned to greater use of technology and working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Increased phishing attempts, malware, and ransomware attacks can be attributed to the changes in operations and procedures during the travel restrictions and operational hurdles encountered during the pandemic. These global challenges resulted in a move by the United States to bolster the federal government’s cybersecurity practices and contractually obligate private sector to align with such enhanced security practices. For instance, the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which controls nearly half the gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel flowing along the East Coast, prompted President Biden to sign an Executive Order (“EO”) on “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity (14028)” on May 12, 2021. A comprehensive overview of President Biden’s EO can be found here. On August 25, 2021, the president also held a cybersecurity summit with leading tech company and Wall Street banking executives to discuss cybersecurity concerns.

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