Ransomware attack against COSCO spread beyond its US network to Americas

Pierluigi Paganini July 31, 2018

New revelations on the attack against COSCO confirm it was worse than initially thought, the ransomware spread beyond the US network.

Chinese shipping giant COSCO recently suffered a ransomware attack that disrupted some systems of the company in the United States.

The shipping company quickly isolates the systems to avoid propagation to other regions and started an internal investigation, the firm confirmed that the incident did not affect operations of the fleet.

“After the network security problem in the Americas has been detected, to protect the interests of our customers, we have taken proactive measures to isolate internal networks to carry out technical inspections on global scale.” COSCO said in an official statement. “With the reliable confirmation from the technical experts that the networks in all other regions are secure, the network applications were recovered at 16:00 (Beijing Time) on 25th July in all the regions except the Americas. As of now, all the business operations have been back to normal in the regions with network recovered.”

New revelations on the attack confirm it was worse than initially thought, the malicious code spread beyond the US network of the company and infected systems in other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.

“Chinese shipping giant COSCO said a ransomware attack has spread beyond its US network to the broader Americas, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.” reported the CBR website.

“That’s according to maritime intelligence house Lloyds List, which has reported that customers were also said to be facing issues in the UK and Turkey.” 

Due to local network breakdown within the America regions, local email and network telephone were not able to work properly at the moment of the attack.

The attack on the world’s largest shipping company by dry weight tonnage has taken out emails and phones.

The company published a list of alternative Yahoo! email addresses to its customers for ordinary communications.

Security experts warned that COSCO fleet could still be at risk following the attack.

“Although COSCO has been quick to respond to this hack, the virus may have been dormant for some time, so I would not be surprised if other systems – shore- and ship-based systems – have been breached. We strongly recommend to whoever discovered the attack to thoroughly verify the breach has been contained and has not infected any ships in the COSCO fleet.” Maritime cybersecurity specialists Naval Dome told IHS Fairplay:

The ransomware attack against COSCO doesn’t appear severe as the NotPetya attack that hit shipping giant Maersk in August 2017.

According to the second quarter earnings report, there were expecting losses between $200 million and $300 million due to “significant business interruption” because the company was forced to temporarily halt critical systems infected with the ransomware.

Møller-Maersk chair Jim Hagemann Snabe during a speech at the World Economic Forum explained that the attack forced the IT staff to reinstall “4,000 new servers, 45,000 new PCs, and 2,500 applications,” practically “a complete infrastructure.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – COSCO, ransomware attack)

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