Ransomware severs 1,000 ships from on-shore servers

Get your eyepatch out: Cyber attacks on the high seas are trending

A Norwegian maritime risk management business is getting a lesson in that very area, after a ransomware attack forced its ShipManager software offline and left 1,000 ships without a connection to on-shore servers. 

DNV said the attack happened on January 7, and updated its report yesterday to say it involved ransomware – but affected vessels are not in any danger and can still operate normally, it added. 

"All vessels can still use the onboard, offline functionalities of the ShipManager software, other systems onboard the vessels are not impacted," DNV said. It doesn't believe any other servers or data were affected. 

ShipManager is a software platform that its developer said is designed to manage entire marine fleets. It includes modules for managing maintenance, crew, hull integrity and other aspects of overseeing a fleet of shipping vessels.

DNV claims "more than 7,000 vessels owned by 300 customers" use ShipManager, and some 1,000 ships owned by 70 customers were affected by this attack.

ShipManager's servers are used to log event-based reports for further evaluation, but not much additional detail is available. The Register has asked DNV for more information, but hadn't heard back at the time of publication.

DNV didn't state which ransomware actor was behind the attack, whether it was negotiating with the attacker, what demands may have been made or if it planned to pay them. Representatives told The Register that they couldn't comment on ongoing investigations.

The Norwegian Police, Norwegian National Security Authority, Norwegian Data Protection Authority, and the German Cyber Security Authority were all informed of the security assault.

"All affected customers have been notified about their responsibility to notify relevant Data Protection Authorities in their countries," DNV said.

Be a seafaring pirate from the comfort of home

DNV isn't the first entity involved in maritime shipping to be hit by ransomware. Shipping giant Maersk was crippled so badly by NotPetya in 2017 that it was forced to rely on WhatsApp communications between private devices to keep operations running.

There's evidence that the shipping and transportation industries are generally becoming more popular as targets for cyber criminals, cyber security biz Trellix said in November. In its Fall 2022 threat report, Trellix explained that in the US alone ransomware attacks against the shipping and transportation sector had doubled from the second to the third quarter of 2022.

Globally, Trellix said, the transportation sector was among the most active for ransomware attacks behind telecommunications. APT groups – sophisticated threat actors who aim for persistence in their attacks and are often backed by governments – were detected in transportation companies "more than in any other sector." ®

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