African Maritime Industry at the Biggest Risk Of Cyber Attack

4 mins read  Sealuminati TeamOctober 23, 2021

Cyber-attacks are rising across the globe very rapidly which also encompasses the marine sector. The Merchant Navy companies, the defense navies & the governments should plan certain things to defend their operations from cyber dangers. The African states were forced to face this cyber peril.

Recently Transnet, one of the biggest South African Companies, was hit by a ransomware attack on its Durban Port which handles almost 60% of the trade of the containers in the country. This attack has caused a severe attack there in the port and almost all the cargo operations paused till the restoration by the IT department.

Many such cyber-attacks took place in the past and caused hazardous effects, some of those include the attacks faced by the MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) which was impacted by the malware-based invasion on 10 April 2020. Maersk, one of the affluent container companies, has also faced the infamous NotPetya Malware attack which affected 49 000 laptops, 1 000 applications, and 3500 servers in 2017.

The Navy can also face the same circumstance of cyber dangers in the prospect as recently in June late this year. The Automatic Identification System (AIS) data was parodied to counterfeit the UK Royal Navy vandal HMS Defender in Russian waters.

A webinar around maritime cyber security in Africa by the Institute for Security Studies was hosted on the 16th of September.

This webinar was held to give an ample amount of knowledge about cyber problems and the methods to withstand them. One of the speakers of the very same Webinar, Denys Reva has released a report in which he has highlighted the area of improvement of the African Maritime Industry as it has about 90% of all African trade is Seaborne. He has also highlighted how a cyber-attack on the port as well as the logistic area can cause big financial damage to the country.

Reva has also added that cyber security is slowly becoming recognized as an important dimension of maritime security, its integration into African maritime security instruments and frameworks must be accelerated.

One of the Key Speakers of the webinar and the Chair of the African Union Cybersecurity Experts Group, Abdul-Hakeem Ajijola has said that there are ten different types of practices or we can say the exercises the cyber security which includes making sure that satellite communication (Satcom) systems are on private IP addresses, regularly updating software, changing passwords from their defaults, creating a separate bridge, engine room, crew, Wi-Fi and business networks onboard vessels, ensuring USB ports are secure on the ship and harbor systems and all of them have a strong password and encryptions on all onboard wifi-networks.

Ajijola has also proposed that we should not rely on the networks completely but we should have separate cyber training for cyber security, and also ensure that the suppliers are conserved vessel administering & harbor safety audits.

The experts of maritime cyber security agreed on the fact that the cyber-attacks were increasing as well as advancing with the technologies the experts agree on; even the main maritime threat to African trade is piracy mainly in the Gulf of Guinea, Somalia & Nigeria.

The ISS participants also heard that Africa has a sufficient fund to only protect its territorial water and it is next to impossible for them to advance their cyber security simultaneously and it's a matter of concern.

The safety of sea routes, ports, and vessels should be a priority for African states. This includes protection against cyber-attacks, the ISS said to benefit the ACFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area).

The maritime cyber defense company of Naval Dome has reported that about 310 incidents affecting maritime industries were recorded worldwide in 2019, a huge jump from 120 in 2018 and 50 in 2017. The ISS also reported earlier that the cyber-attacks on African states were also affecting continents' recovery from COVID-19.

Read here about the importance of cybersecurity in maritime.

Formerly the hackers accessed the port’s server of Kennewick’s port in the United States which was hit by the ransomware attack in 2020, disrupting its undertakings. And mandated a ransom of $200 000 to reclaim access to data, which the port refused to pay. Criminals may also manipulate defenselessness to steal or suppress cargo.

The Ports are very easy and attractive targets for cyber-attacks until Africa advances its security network. These attacks were kind of normal incidents in the future.

Picture Credits: Tripwire