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An oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman. An oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman (AP file photo).

Commercial Shipping Is the Next Cybersecurity Challenge

Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021

In recent weeks, a series of attacks on commercial shipping in and near the Persian Gulf have been unofficially attributed to Iran, including a drone attack that killed two mariners in the Gulf and an attempted hijacking of a commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz. Along with another suspected attack, in which several ships simultaneously reported difficulties in steering, these incidents highlight both the importance of commercial shipping to the global economy and the sector’s vulnerability to asymmetric tactics, including cyberattacks. They also show how Iran is using cyberattacks to demonstrate its capabilities, and signal what to expect from the new political leadership in Tehran.

The drone attack, which targeted an Israeli-operated tanker off the coast of Oman in late July, left one British and one Romanian national dead. Days later, in the first week of August, armed assailants boarded another ship, the Asphalt Princess, off the United Arab Emirates and ordered it to sail to Iran; the hijacking attempt was foiled when the crew disabled the ship’s engines. In the same week, up to six vessels reported the loss of their steering control in the Gulf of Oman.  ...

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