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Crime by the ocean – the latest threat facing superyacht owners

11th May 2017
Crime by the ocean – the latest threat facing superyacht owners

Crime on the ocean wave

In just 30 munutes, hackers can take complete control of a superyacht...

At a recent superyacht conference in London, delegates were shocked by how easy it is for a hacker to take control of a multi-million super yacht with just a few clicks of a laptop.

IT specialist Campbell Murray recalls that within a few hours mooring up, he had taken control of a neighbouring superyacht, affording him the opportunity to sail it and its super rich owner off into the sunset. “We had control of the satellite communications, we had control of the telephone system, the wi-fi and the navigation...and we could wipe the data to erase any evidence of what we have done” All of this took a mere thirty minutes and Murray and his team were able to take control of the superyachts wifi and was able to read, delete and even edit emails.

The results are staggering and the ease in which a billionaire or oligarch could be hijacked whilst on their yacht is astonishing. Mr Murray who is a cybercrime specialist at Blackberry was demonstrating how easy it is to leverage lax data security on superyachts which provided ample opportunities to steal the superyacht’s owner’s confidential information, including the likes of financial and banking information, business data and private or compromising photos.

What is even more worrying is that a potential hacker could take control of the vessel’s navigation systems and try to force the yacht off course. Many yacht owners have been affected and have been either blackmailed with compromising photos or have been forced to pay a ransom to unlock the navigation systems.

Yachts are incredibly vulnerable to hackers owing to their less-secured Wifi networks which can be accessed from a reasonable distance. Murray says that “Owners like to have strong wifi so that they can operate their businesses from their yacht, but this means that the wifi network extends quite a distance from the yacht to the other vessels and the shore” which begs the questions, who are you moored up next to?

Security experts said physical attacks on superyachts were very rare but data hacks leading to blackmail and ransom demands had become more common in the past 18 months. Security expert Malcolm Taylor who is head of cybersecurity for private security firm G3 says that superyachts used to be classed as ‘floating luxury hotels’ but “now are often used as floating offices and require a lot of technology, but the security is not kept up and is vulnerable to attack”.

One of the biggest threats is extortion, in particular where sensitive photos are taken which are then used to hold yacht owners and their guests to ransom.

Reference: The Guardian

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