Claims of State-Sponsored Cyberattack in the Maritime Industry
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Developments in technology bring inherent risks along with convenience. Undoubtedly, cyberattacks constitute one potentially serious risk. While a stereotypical scenario involves a curious teenager sitting in front of his computer at home, a much more critical threat comes from experienced professionals, supported by states, who are specially trained and who have the necessary technological equipment to do great harm. These cyberattacks exert a negative impact on the maritime industry due to the wide usage area of both information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems. On a related note, opponents of autonomous ship projects can effectively cite the weaknesses detected in navigation systems onboard ships. Examination of cyberattacks in the maritime industry as reflected in the press or in academic studies reveals claims that some of these attacks are state-sponsored. However, no country has to date accepted responsibility for such cyberattacks. Although those targeted by such accusations have neither confirmed nor rejected responsibility, the nature of the attacks – sophisticated or requiring high-cost equipment – raises the possibility that behind the attacks are countries that may have conducted research studies for defensive or offensive purposes. China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Turkey have been named among the countries carrying out cyberattacks on the maritime industry. It is envisaged that these attacks are based on motivations such as information theft, defence research or sabotage of exploration for underground sources. Among the cyberattacks on vessels that have been assessed as state-sponsored, the most common have involved GPS jamming, rendering GPS useless, and GPS spoofing that causes the GPS to report an incorrect position for a ship at sea. This study examines the cyberattacks on the maritime industry that are asserted as state-sponsored as well as the parties involved in these attacks and the possible objectives of those parties.