Security Experts:

UN Maritime Agency Hit by 'Sophisticated Cyberattack'

The United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) last week said some of its systems were disrupted as a result of a cyberattack.

IMO describes itself as the “global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping.” The organization says its main role is to develop a fair and effective regulatory framework that is universally adopted and implemented.

IMO’s website and other web services were first disrupted on September 30, when the agency announced on Twitter that its team was working on fixing some “technical issues.” Then, on October 2, it admitted that the problems were caused by a cyberattack, and said that it was working on restoring impacted systems.

“IMO has ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification for its information security management system. IMO was the first UN organization to get this certification in 2015,” IMO stated. “The IMO Headquarters file servers are located in the UK, with extensive backup systems in Geneva. The backup and restore system is regularly tested.”

It added, “Following the attack the Secretariat shut down key systems to prevent further damage from the attack.”

IMO has not shared any technical information about the attack. It may have been a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, a ransomware attack, or a different type of breach.

While it has described it as a “sophisticated cyberattack against the Organization’s IT systems that overcame robust security measures in place,” it’s not uncommon for organizations to describe even DDoS attacks as “sophisticated.”

SecurityWeek has reached out to IMO to find out exactly what type of attack it was and we will update this article if the organization responds.

The news came less than a week after French shipping giant CMA CGM was hit by a cyberattack that forced it to shut down some systems. According to reports, the attack involved a piece of file-encrypting ransomware named Ragnar Locker.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.