Why Modern Pirates Have Turned to Cyber Hacking

March 19, 2016 Updated: March 19, 2016

According to a recent Verizon report, pirates are now utilizing sophisticated cyber tactics to assist in their naval marauding ventures. The typical day in the life of a naval pirate consists of targeting a vessel spotted at sea, taking its crew hostage, and holding them for ransom until the ship’s valuable cargo has been rifled through and plundered.

However, some pirates have conspired to make the job quite a bit easier: Their new strategy consists of cyber hacking into a shipping line’s servers and pulling out information about sailing times, locations, and cargo manifests. The pirates then gear up to intercept a shipping vessel at a predetermined location, cordon off the boat’s crew to a specific area onboard, quickly gather up the specific goods they had selected prior to boarding, and depart the ship in pursuit of their next target.

As in all other areas of life, internet-enabled technology has helped shipping companies improve their business. They keep records of sailing times, departure and destination locations, and cargo manifests in order to streamline their naval operations.

Keeping and using these records comes at a cost: cyber hacking exploitability. By necessity, if a shipping line uses computer systems to store its information, that same information is potentially assailable by pirates looking to achieve their own ends.

And as we all know, this isn’t something that only shipping companies worry about—just as the storage of information on a shipping line server can be exploited, so also can the storage of information on a personal computer be exploited.

This goes to show that the field of cyber is ever-growing and that it is increasingly having physical ramifications as a result. Both security managers and cyber hackers alike are finding new ways to utilize the cyber realm to accomplish their own objectives. Therefore, improving security in the physical realm requires initial focus on improving security in the cyber realm.

Evan McDermott is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. David Inserra specializes in cyber and homeland security policy, including protection of critical infrastructure, as policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. Copyright The Daily Signal. This article was previously published on The Daily Signal.