It may come as a shock to Jack Sparrow and his ilk, but the new way to hijack a ship is by flooding it with ransomware. Twenty-first century buccaneers can now use a yacht’s wi-fi connection to seize control of the vessel, infiltrate passengers’ online accounts and even steal their private photos – with a view to extorting from them a treasure chest of doubloons.
Owners of expensive super yachts and their well-heeled guests make, by definition, high-value targets. Researchers have demonstrated how easy it is for privateers to take over the yacht’s satellite communications, telephone system, wi-fi and navigation and to cover their tracks by wiping the data. They could also hijack the yacht’s CCTV, allowing them to gather valuable intel for launching a physical attack – more in the Captain Kidd tradition.
Ransomware attacks are up by 50% over the past year and it appears that three quarters of the perpetrators are from Russia.