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Did A Cyber Attack Cause The Baltimore Bridge Collapse?

April 2, 2024

The Baltimore bridge is making headlines all over the world. Was this a result of a cyber attack? 

The massive Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed, leading to turmoil at one of the country's biggest ports, and raising concerns about the Singapore-flagged container ship. This disastrous incident resulted in the death of six construction workers, all who were fixing potholes on the bridge. After the 1000-foot-long cargo ship collided with the bridge, forcing it to partially fall into the Patapsco River, there was panic and fear among people and several questions about supply chain disruptions were raised. 

The cargo ship called as Dali, was heading towards Sri Lanka, out of Baltimore Harbour. At 1:30 a.m ET, this huge cargo vessel hit a support pylon of the bridge and collapsed. According to LSEG shipping data, it looked to be traveling at around 8 knots (approximately 9 mph) prior to the incident. The video footage of the accident indicates that the 1.6-mile bridge crumpled into the freezing water just 40 seconds after being struck. 

The Singapore-flagged container ship has passed regulatory checks under the purview of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). According to MPA, the Singapore flag has become the preferred flag for many shipowners and operators due to the high quality of the ship registration in Singapore. The Singapore Registry of Ships, formed in 1966, is in charge of regulating Singapore-flagged ships and ensuring that these vessels and their owners follow local and international standards governing crew safety and environmental protection. 

With all these precautions and regulations in place, how did this catastrophe occur? The crew lost all communication a few moments before the attack. Had there been proper cybersecurity measures in place with 24/7 monitoring, they could have detected abnormal behaviors of their devices and networks well in advance, giving them the opportunity and the time to soften the blow of such an accident, if not entirely prevent it. 

All it took was 40 seconds to cause irreparable damage to one of the country’s busiest ports with over 4000 tons of debris in the Patapsco River. The damage occurred quickly but the recovery will be a long process. This incident begs the question — is the maritime industry prepared for cyber attacks that could potentially occur in the future and cause similar damage? 

Let’s understand this better. PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) in the maritime industry are critical for ensuring the security and reliability of key operational systems onboard ships. Monitoring of PLCs controlling navigation systems is vital for safe navigation, including steering, propulsion, and collision avoidance. By continuously monitoring PLCs, maritime operators can detect anomalies such as unauthorized access attempts, unusual commands sent to the PLCs, or abnormal behavior in sensor data.

This 24/7 monitoring helps secure devices by providing early detection of potential cyber threats, such as malware infections or unauthorized control attempts. It allows for immediate response actions, such as isolating compromised PLCs, blocking malicious commands, and restoring normal operation. Furthermore, monitoring PLCs supports compliance with maritime cybersecurity regulations and standards by providing audit trails and logs for incident investigation and reporting. Overall, monitoring PLCs in the maritime industry enhances threat detection, incident response capabilities, and overall resilience against cyber attacks, ensuring the safety and security of maritime operations.

We are not saying that the Baltimore bridge collapsing is the result of a cyber attack, we are simply asking the question of cyber readiness. Is your organization prepared to face cyber attacks that can lead to such incidents? Remember that we don’t need to face an attack to be prepared. We can get ahead and limit the damage. 

Source: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/business/2024/04/01/baltimore-francis-scott-key-bridge-collapse-port-wilmington-ship-traffic-doubles/73148580007/ 


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