As if there isn’t enough to worry about with Covid-19, the continued depression in the offshore energy industry and the sluggish economy. Now the maritime industry is facing additional cybersecurity concerns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

As WorkBoat's July cover story points out, the increase in digitalization and connectivity, combined with more employees now working from remote and sometimes poorly secured locations, has provided more fodder for cybercriminals to unleash their own viruses on workboat companies from the inland waterways to the U.S. Gulf.

U.S. and UK cybersecurity agencies warned in April that “a growing number of cybercriminals and other malicious groups online are exploiting the Covid-19 outbreak for their own personal gain.”

Jennifer Carpenter of the American Waterways Operators said that cybersecurity must be a focus for everyone. “It doesn’t matter where you’re located, the size of your operation, or the complexity of your operation, we all have to make sure we have the network system that will get us through unusual events.”

“There are more of these cyber related instances coming to the forefront,” Arinjit Roy of the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) told WorkBoat. “There have been quite a few already. Some we’ve heard of, but many others kind of go under the radar. This will become more prominent.”

Jason Getzinger of Global Data Systems told us that the maritime industry’s susceptibility to cyberattacks can be traced to 2015 and the height of the oil and gas industry downturn, which filtered down to supporting industries. With companies operating in survival mode, he said, the limited capital available was used to simply maintain operations. Cybersecurity did not qualify.

But for IT managers and IT staff that had previously been unable to get executive management buy-in, Covid-19 represents a big opportunity. Getzinger said that this is their chance to communicate the importance of identifying cyber risks on a regular basis and the impact of those risks if they’re not addressed.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.