Hackers are slowly turning their eyes to a new target. An investigation of the emails of a medium sized shipment firm revealed how their system was being manipulated by hackers. A small virus had been placed into the systems of the company. All the emails to and from their finance department were being monitored. When one of the firm’s fuel supplying partners would send an email asking for payment, the virus would change the text of the email before it was read and replace the bank account number with a different one.
It took a while for the company to realize something was wrong. It was then that they hired a cyber security expert firm that conducted an investigation and informed them of what was going on. The shipping firm reportedly lost 300 million USD in profits alone.
Shipment firms have always been relaxed about cyber security as they have believed they were safe from such attacks. But things are changing now as more and more such incidents come to light.
Commercial ships carry 90% of the world’s trade. It is not just the computer systems of shipping companies that are at risk from hackers but shipping vessels themselves as well. As ships become increasingly more computerized, they are vulnerable to manipulation as well. A virus can spread and affect the navigation system of a ship through an infected device brought on board and connected with the system as well.
More dangerous scenarios involve hackers manipulating a ship’s computer systems to sabotage or even destroy it. Pirates have also taken to hacking to find out which particular vessels will be transporting the goods they intend to seize, making it easier for them to target, locate and steal the intended goods.
China is the world’s largest exporter of products to several countries and continents. One of China’s leading importers is the United States. As air shipment costs more, the majority of shipments are made through the sea. Although this takes longer, it is significantly cheaper than air shipment. In 2016, US imported more than 460 billion dollars’ worth of goods from China. The trade between China and US is huge. The US is the largest importer of goods from China. Thus, these two countries pose as the biggest targets for hackers looking to target shipment firms and vessels.
In lieu of these rising risks, shipping firms in not just US and China but worldwide should quickly catch up with other industries that employ adequate cyber security measures.
The risks of such an attack increase every day. It is no longer safe to assume the simple security measures of old will hold up against modern hackers and manipulation software. It is imperative that the shipment industry take the necessary measures to guard themselves against such attacks to prevent major loss.