UN maritime agency says it was hacked

Attack took place last week and "overcame robust security measures" the agency had in place to protect IT systems.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu, Contributor on
Image: UN

The United Nations International Maritime Organization (UN IMO) disclosed a security breach over the weekend that the agency categorized as a "sophisticated cyber-attack" against its IT systems.

The incident was discovered on Thursday and impacted the IMO public website and other web-based services, the UN agency said in a press release.

Email systems, its virtual conferencing platform, along with other internal and external collaboration platforms, were unaffected, an IMO spokesperson said.

Affected systems were taken down and then restored by Friday, October 2.

The agency said the attack "overcame robust security measures" it had in place to protect its IT systems.

"The IMO Headquarters file servers are located in the UK, with extensive backup systems in Geneva. The backup and restore system is regularly tested," the agency said.

"Following the attack, the Secretariat shut down key systems to prevent further damage from the attack. The Secretariat is working with international security experts to restore systems as soon as possible, to identify the source of the attack, and further enhance security systems to prevent recurrence."

An IMO spokesperson acknowledged a request for comment from ZDNet but did not return an email seeking for more details about the nature of the cyberattack.

It is unclear if the IMO was hit by ransomware, a website defacement, or its website was used for a watering hole attack, a type of attack where hackers host malicious code on the IMO website in an attempt to trick IMO members and visitors into downloading and infecting themselves with malware.

The IMO is the UN organization that issues international guidance on shipping, passenger ships, maritime security, and maritime environmental protection. Due to its central role in international rule-making, it is a highly important organization that often sets international policies in regard to the entire maritime field.

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