Friday, April 20, 2012

Somali Pirates: Cyberwar and simple spy craft?

Interesting article in National Defense by Michael Frodl, "Pirates Exploiting Cybersecurity Weaknesses in Maritime Industry":
Sea pirate tool?
The increasingly common hacking attacks on government and private computer networks are now being perpetrated on companies and organizations involved in the burgeoning private maritime security industry.

It appears that ship owners and shippers are mostly oblivious to even the most elementary rules of not only cybersecurity, but more importantly, of information security.

They should be paying more attention to this issue. Somali pirates and their confederates, especially their foreign bankrollers, are increasingly surfing the Web for loose information that can help them with targeting vulnerable and valuable ships. They are hiring experts who know how to break into the “secure” computers of ship owners and shippers and obtain information that is not being shared with the public, including blueprints to ships and the insurance they carry.

It is not enough to protect networked computers with technological fixes such as firewalls, tripwires and passwords. They can only provide so much security. One also has to train staff to not give away vital information to strangers in person or over the phone, or by just throwing out revealing documents without shredding them first.

... the smarter pirates have avoided giving away early clues of their intent. Guided by a ship’s Automated Information System, they zero in on a specific prize, go out at the last minute, pile on to her deck and hijack her so fast that the modern naval warships on the prowl and their fast response helicopter-borne sharpshooters can’t show up in time.

The last hijacking of 2011 was precisely this sort of operation. The Enrico Ievoli was carrying caustic soda from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, and was targeted in a premeditated way. Her itinerary, cargo and crew, location, and the fact that she didn’t have armed guards were all known in advance by her Somali attackers, thanks to help from the Italian mafia, which commissioned the hijacking. She was grabbed practically under the noses of the foreign navies patrolling and assuring the security of the Gulf of Aden corridor.
Read the whole thing.

Loose lips (and computers) can result in captured ships.


  1. Ok, for the record we are locked and loaded.

  2. If the pirates are so all knowing, why do they continually attack ships with armed security and occasionally attack warships?
    The Italian Mafia commissioning a hijack is an interesting story, what's his source for it?

  3. JCWB: I dunno, but is an interesting item