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Maritime Cyber Security & Threats January 2020 Week One

The case for pre-emptive defence

Vessel Impersonation Report

Dryad Global’s cyber security partners, Red Sky Alliance, perform weekly queries of  backend databases, identifying all new data containing Motor Vessel (MV) and Motor Tanker (MT) in the subject line of malicious emails.  Email subject line Motor Vessel (MV) or Motor Tanker (MT) keyword usage is a common lure to entice users in the maritime industry to open emails containing malicious attachments.

With our cyber security partner we are providing a weekly list of Motor Vessels where it is observed that the vessel is being impersonated, with associated malicious emails.

The identified emails attempted to deliver malware or phishing links to compromise the vessels and/or parent companies.  Users should be aware of the subject lines used and the email addresses that are attempting to deliver the messages.

Tactical Cyber Intelligence Reporting

First SeenSubject Line UsedMalware DetectionsSending EmailTargets
Jan 7, 2020REVISED Invoice for Lashing MV-RTE5T THORCOMSOffice/CVE_2017_11882.C!exploitTarget not reported

This week Red Sky Alliance observed vessel impersonation traffic attempting to deliver the MSOffice/CVE_2017_11882.C!exploit malware.
In the above collection we see a malicious actor attempting to use a vessel name to try and spoof companies in the maritime supply chain. However, no vessel with the name “MV-RTE5T THORCO” could be found in open sources. According to marinetraffic.com there are 111 vessels that begin with the word THORCO. Additionally, RTE5 is the name of a navigation aid in the Persian Gulf, northeast of the King Abdulaziz Seaport in Saudi Arabia. It is unknown why the attacker would use the name of a non-existent vessel. Perhaps a wordlist of vessel names was used to generate the subject line programmatically, like a form letter. Or, perhaps attackers are betting on the possibility that the recipient would not verify the vessel name is valid before opening the message and its attachment.
Analysis reveals that a malicious email was sent to an unreported target domain. The message contains the subject line “REVISED Invoice for Lashing MV-RTE5T THORCO” and an attachment identified by Fortinet as the MSOffice/CVE_2017_11882.C!exploit malware . This malware exploits flaws in a large range of Microsoft office products ranging from Microsoft Office 2007 to Microsoft Office 2016. In the past this malware has been used to deliver the ZBOT banking malware which steals on-line banking credentials.
The message draws attention to an attached invoice and requests a payment of $53,056.44 USD to cover container lashing costs. However, opening the attachment could trigger the attached malware to be installed3

Our Experts Say

Dryad Assessment

Fraudulent emails designed to make recipients hand over sensitive information, extort money or trigger malware installation on shore-based or vessel IT networks remains one of the biggest day-to-day cyber threats facing the maritime industry. These threats often carry a financial liability to one or all those involved in the maritime transportation supply chain.

Pre-empt, don’t just defend

Preventative cyber protection offers a strong first-line defense by preventing deceptive messages from ever reaching staff inboxes, but malicious hackers are developing new techniques to evade current detection daily. Using preemptive information from Red Sky Alliance RedXray diagnostic tool, our Vessel Impersonation reports and Maritime Blacklists offer a proactive solution to stopping cyber-attacks. Recent studies suggest cyber-criminals are researching their targets and tailoring emails for staff in specific roles. Another tactic is to spoof emails from the chief executive or other high-ranking maritime contemporaries in the hope staff lower down the supply chain will drop their awareness and follow the spoofed email obediently. Analysts across the industry are beginning to see maritime-specific examples of these attacks.

Global Dryad

Weekly Maritime Watchlist

Top 5 Malicious Maritime Email Senders

SenderMaware Sent
[email protected]JS/Phish.AB38!tr
[email protected]Exploit:O97M/CVE-2017-11882!MTB
[email protected]PWS:Win32/Zbot.J
[email protected]MSOffice/CVE_2017_11882.C!exploit
[email protected]Trojan:Win32/Ditertag.A

The more convincing an email appears, the greater the chance employees will fall for a scam.  To address this residual risk, software-based protection should be treated as one constituent of a wider strategy that also encompasses the human-element as well as organizational workflows and procedures.

It is imperative to:

  • Train all levels of the marine supply chain to realize they are under constant cyber-attack.
  • Stress maintaining constant attention to real-world cyber consequences of careless cyber practices or general inattentiveness.
  • Provide practical guidance on how to look for a potential phishing attempt.
  • Use direct communication to verify emails and supply chain email communication.
  • Use Red Sky Alliance RedXray proactive support, our Vessel impersonation information and use the Maritime Black Lists to proactively block cyber attacks from identified malicious actors.

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