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Cyber Security: Bunkering sector ‘no escape’ from digital risk

08 May 2018

The bunkering sector is as well exposed as other segments of the shipping industry to cyber security risks, representatives of Singapore-based maritime technology firms OSERV and Pragma tell Manifold Times.

Peter Schellenberger, Managing Director at OSERV, and Geoff Leeming, Partner at Pragma, both used the case example of a 2014 cyberattack on major fuel supplier World Fuel Services (WFS) that saw the firm lose $18 million.

The bunkering sector is increasingly being targeted by cyber criminals due to the nature of the industry’s transactions which are frequently conducted over e-mails, a convenient format for hackers to exploit and impersonate as sellers.

“The weakest link in terms of cyber security for a bunker transaction is the ship-board computers on vessels involved in bunkering transactions,” highlights Schellenberger.

“Any ship that is connected to the internet that doesn’t have up to date cyber security is a potential target, and the risk is that hackers or viruses will damage the ships ability to operate during the transaction with potentially catastrophic consequences. 

“If a bunkering ship was attacked during a refuelling operation, and the ship systems either cut out or were taken over, there’s significant potential for either a spill or a SOLAS incident.”

Leeming, meanwhile, points out that it is not only the big bunkering companies which are at risk of cyberattacks.

“In our experience, as cyber security is cutting edge and expensive, it tends to be only the larger companies that can afford to employ expert security teams,” he explains.

“So smaller companies – like bunkering firms – tend to have much more vulnerable IT security systems.  Any bunkering firm that has internet-connected systems on its vessels needs to take a very good look at its cyber-safety.”

Photo credit: OSERV
Published: 4 May, 2018


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