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Cyber Security Threats Challenge International Shipping Industry

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The crippling ransomware attack against the Colonial oil pipeline in the U.S. in May 2021 should be a wake up call for the maritime industry. As a critical part of the global supply chain, the shipping industry could become an attractive target for cyber criminals and politically motivated attacks.

The 9,000km long Colonial Pipeline, which connects some 30 oil refineries and nearly 300 fuel distribution terminals, was brought down by a cyberattack, which resulted in petrol shortages across the eastern U.S. The company paid a $4.4 million ransomware demand to hacking group DarkSide in return for getting its systems back online.

The attack has far reaching implications for critical industries, including shipping. Not only did it reveal weaknesses in cyber security, but also the attractiveness of critical infrastructure to cyber criminals and nation states. Given its perceived success, the attack could encourage similar attacks, and result in tougher cyber security requirements and higher penalties for critical service providers.

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