In these challenging times of a global pandemic, just as the port and maritime industry has made adjustments to meet the requirements of the emerging “new normal”, criminals and terrorists are also adjusting their nefarious activities to take advantage of changing lifestyles and commercial operations. Law Enforcement Agencies across the country have seen a rise in criminal or terrorist activity that specifically exploits the COVID-19 pandemic or takes advantage of changes in personal activity as a result of the pandemic. These include:
- sale of counterfeit N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE);
- display of false credentials indicating either status as a government official or essential worker to bypass travel or access restrictions;
- targeting databases with personal information to extract personal and financial information in order to engage in identity theft and fraud;
- “bombing” of online conferencing applications such as Zoom in order to spread hateful rhetoric, pornography, and other inappropriate material;
- phishing and ransomware campaigns are being launched to exploit the current crisis and are expected to continue to increase in scope and scale, especially as more people are spending more time online for work and personal reasons.
Given that the port and maritime industry have been the target of both intended and unintended cybersecurity attacks in the past, it is important that all port stakeholders recognize the potential threats and implement measures to mitigate them. These mitigation measures are appropriate both for the workplace and for individuals as well. Fortunately, there are several tools and approaches that can be employed to mitigate or reduce many of these threats. These include:
- If something sounds like it is “too good to be true” it probably is. Do extra research and be careful where you click. The following are credible sources of “rumor control””
- New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness: https://www.njhomelandsecurity.gov/covid19.
- Engage in good information and cyber security practices. The attached graphic provided by Homeland Security Investigations offers important tips to avoid both information theft and fraudulent activity;
- Purchase PPE only from brand-name authorized dealers; and
- Ensure your workforce remains vigilant and reports any suspicious activities in and around port, transportation, distribution and logistics facilities.