US coastal and maritime defense is at risk, warns the Coast Guard. An alert released on Monday cautions that hackers have actively been targeting the networks of commercial vessels with phishing attacks. This is not a one-time hit. In 2018, the FBI, DHS and US Coast Guard worked together on investigating a major ransomware attack on the shipping industry that started with the Port of San Diego.

The US Coast Guard issued the
alert following a preliminary investigation of an attack in February “when Coast
Guard investigators were called to examine reports of a cybersecurity incident
aboard an international deep draft vessel bound for the Port of New York and
New Jersey.” There was no major damage.

A similar alert had been issued
in May when cybercriminals resorted to phishing to steal sensitive information about
the ships and their itineraries. No details have been released regarding the malware
infection, but the network was not used by staff for personal business. “The
ship’s network was mainly used for official business, including updating
electronic charts, managing cargo data and communicating with shore-side
facilities, pilots, agents and the Coast Guard,” says the report.

“The team concluded that
although the malware significantly degraded the functionality of the onboard
computer system, essential vessel control systems had not been impacted,”
according to the Coast Guard alert issued Monday. “Nevertheless, the
interagency response found that the vessel was operating without effective
cybersecurity measures in place, exposing critical vessel control systems to
significant vulnerabilities.”