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900% Increase In Cyber Attacks Targeting OT Systems in Maritime

May 24, 2024

One of the prime targets of cyber attacks is the maritime industry. Since 2020, the attack on OT systems in maritime has increased by a whopping 900%, and it is estimated to keep rising. There are several reasons for this, and one of them is the convergence of IT and OT systems. As maritime industries embrace digital transformation, OT systems are increasingly interconnected with IT systems. This convergence enhances operational efficiency but also expands the attack surface, leaving vessels and ports at huge risk. 

The maritime industry has traditionally focused on physical security and safety, sometimes at the expense of cybersecurity, which has led to gaps in cybersecurity practices and defenses.

Another key factor worth noting is the adoption of IoT. While the proliferation of IoT devices in vessels and ports have been monumental in automation and efficiency, the increase in the number of potential entry points for cyber attackers due to this cannot be understated. Many of these IoT devices do not come with in-built security which makes them easy targets of cyber attacks. 

Different parts within the OT system like the network connecting RTGs, STS cranes, traffic control and vessel berthing systems, cargo handling and safety and security systems, etc., are under threat due to lax security measures. 

High Value Targets

Maritime OT systems are crucial for the operation of vessels and ports. Disrupting these systems can have significant economic and logistical consequences, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals.

Attackers exploit this high dependency on OT systems to demand large ransoms, knowing that disruptions can be extremely costly.

State-sponsored actors and organized crime groups are deploying more sophisticated and persistent attack methods targeting OT systems. Attackers have become increasingly skilled at identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in OT systems, including zero-day vulnerabilities and weaknesses in third-party components.

The maritime industry is critical to global trade and supply chains. Disrupting these operations can have significant economic impacts. Hackers target shipping lines, ports, and vessels to cause disruption, demand ransom, or steal valuable cargo and information.


Cyber attackers often use phishing and social engineering tactics to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or granting access to secure systems. The maritime industry's reliance on electronic communication makes it vulnerable to such attacks.

Employees or contractors with legitimate access to systems can intentionally or unintentionally compromise security. This is particularly concerning in maritime settings where remote locations and long durations at sea can complicate oversight and enforcement of security protocols.

Many maritime systems, particularly older ones, were not designed with cybersecurity in mind. This results in outdated software, unpatched systems, and insufficient security protocols, making them prime targets for attackers. Another reason is retrofitting which enhances the operational efficiency and safety of vessels, but it can also introduce new cybersecurity risks. 

When new systems are added to older ships, there may be compatibility issues. If these new systems are not properly integrated, they can create security gaps. MicroSec’s solutions allow seamless integration to OT systems within your vessels, fleets, and ports, giving you end-to-end protection and full visibility into your network as you cannot protect what you cannot see.

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