The impact of the WannaCry ransomware attack is unprecedented, affecting more than 200,000 devices in at least 150 countries in recent weeks. It brings to light how all industries, even maritime, are vulnerable to cybersecurity risk and the repercussions it can have. According to Andreas Kuehlmann from Synopsys, “The WannaCry ransomware outbreak is a wake-up call for the world. It highlights not only our interconnectedness and deep-seated dependence on technology, but the massive challenge we face in securing the ecosystem of software and systems we rely on.”
Spreading across networks, WannaCry seized control of both personal and professional devices forcing their owners to pay real money or risk having their data deleted. Ransomware is considered one of the fastest-growing cybercrime epidemics. According to the security team at SonicWall, their Global Response Intelligence Grid saw nearly 3.8 million ransomware attacks attempted in 2015. Last year, ransomware attacks grew at a blistering pace. SonicWall reported 638 million ransomware attacks in 2016, more than 167 times the number of attacks in 2015. Beyond the staggering volume of the attacks, there are large sums of money that individuals and organization paid in the hope of getting their files decrypted. Although it is difficult to give a truly accurate total, SonicWall noted that around $209 million in ransoms were paid in the first quarter of 2016 alone.
A big reason for the steep increase in ransomware attacks in recent years comes from the proliferation of point-and-click tools sold in the cybercrime underground network, making it simple for anyone to begin extorting others for money. There are actual online tools enabling anyone to become a cyber pirate, kidnapping data for a ransom, so you need to be on your guard. Once the malware has infected one computer, it can spread to others in the network, making it impossible to carry out normal operations. Just imagine a ransomware attack on a container ship with malicious software seizing control of its computer systems, leaving the vessel dormant unless it pays the ransom.
Another widespread ransomware attack should easily impact the maritime industry. The implications are even being discussed in the oil industry. Hopefully the widespread coverage of WannaCry continues to bring cybersecurity to the forefront, even within the maritime industry, and the fact that this issue is not going away any time soon.
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