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Cyber pirates prowling ship controls threaten another big shock

Cyber pirates hijacking on-board technology for key operations appear to be an emerging threat to world trade. The current economy, following the pandemic and the commencement of a war in Ukraine, is particularly vulnerable.

Photo shows container ships in the German Bight and is unrelated. | Photo: Jonas Walzberg/AP/Ritzau Scanpix

In February 2019, a large container ship sailing for New York identified a cyber intrusion on board that startled the US Coast Guard. Though the malware attack never controlled the vessel’s movement, authorities concluded that weak defenses exposed critical functions to “significant vulnerabilities.”

A maritime disaster didn’t happen that day, but a warning flare rose over an emerging threat to global trade: cyber piracy able to penetrate on-board technology that’s replacing old ways of steering, propulsion, navigation and other key operations. Such leaps in hacking capabilities could do enormous economic damage, particularly now, when supply chains are already stressed from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, experts including a top Coast Guard official said.

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