Online scammers will exploit Coronavirus if they can, warns GTMaritime

12 March 2020 – Maritime cybersecurity faces a new and highly unpredictable threat as scammers line up to exploit fears surrounding the Coronavirus at the same time as the industry moves to encourages remote working to minimise the spread of the pathogen.

Jamie Jones, Operations Director

“Shipping companies are looking into reconfiguring their shore-based operations in response to the spread of Coronavirus, but employees can expect to receive unsolicited messages geared to exploit their personal anxieties about the epidemic,” warns GTMaritime’s Jamie Jones, Operations Director. “As organisations ramp up physical hygiene, it is important they don’t take their eye off cyber-hygiene.”

Researchers at Sophos recently identified a trojan campaign specifically targeting Italian email addresses attempting to play on worries about the virus. The phishing email comes with an attached Word document that claims to contain advice on how to prevent infection – but is in fact a Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) script that drops a payload to steal confidential information.

More generally, scammers are setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts and social media posts to seek out personal information or financial reward. Under cover of promoting awareness, offering prevention tips or providing fake information about cases local to the recipient, fraudsters can request donations for ‘victims’ or deliver malicious email attachments to spread malware or steal log-in credentials.

“On the one hand, IT professionals working at shipping companies are at an advantage as they are already familiar with the challenges of remote working – as nothing can be more remote than a ship in the middle of the ocean,” says Jamie. “On the other, they must monitor and contend with emerging risks across multiple territories rather than managing a response within a single country.”

GTMaritime recommends that shipping companies review their cyber response plans to ensure they can withstand the fresh threats emerging due to Coronavirus. “Companies should ensure that their IT infrastructure is as robust as it can be. GTMaritime offers a comprehensive suite of solutions and provides free phishing penetration tests to its customers to bolster defences against all threats including those leveraging Coronavirus to conduct financial fraud and disseminate malware,” adds Mike McNally, Global Commercial Director

In anticipation of a broader spread of COVID-19, the United States’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued high-level guidance to help organisations plan for potential impacts – physical and virtual – to their workforce and operations. As well as reviewing business continuity plans for infrastructure, supply-chain and workforce impacts, CISA says all organisations should conduct recurrent assessments of preparedness. Above all, its advice envisages all machines having properly configured firewalls plus anti-malware and intrusion prevention software installed.


Advice for maritime IT professionals:

  • Ensure VPNs and other remote access systems are fully patched
  • Stress-test remote access solutions’ ability to cope with increased usage
  • Ensure laptops issued to employees have firewalls, anti-malware and intrusion prevention software installed
  • Switch on enhanced system monitoring to receive early detection and alerts on abnormal activity
  • Ensure business continuity plans are up-to-date
  • Update incident response plans to consider workforce changes in a distributed environment.

Advice for crew and shore-based employees:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know and be extremely wary of attachments
  • Disregard unsolicited emails claiming to be from official health agencies with new information about the virus
  • Do not reveal personal or sensitive operational details in emails
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations, treatments or cures


About GTMaritime:

Wherever you are, we are.

  • Over 20 years maritime communications experience
  • 5,500+ vessels & 500+ businesses worldwide trust GTMaritime with their communication solutions
  • Proven 100% service record with no unscheduled downtime
  • 100% malware blocking with over 86,000 malware attacks stopped in the last 12 months
  • Over 5.3m spam messages and 1.7m known viruses blocked in the last 12 months
  • 24-7-365 technical support from ITIL trained engineers
  • Offices in the UK, USA and Singapore along with a global partner network
  • Continuous software development ensures rapid deployment of new functionality, as well providing software updates for vulnerabilities

Since 1998 GTMaritime has been providing a range of technology solutions and services to the maritime industry that serve to enable effective communications over satellite.

We specialise in providing solutions and services that help ensure vessel compliance and business operability 365 days a year, as well as keeping crew in touch with friends and family whilst at sea. All of this is backed up by a market leading infrastructure and unrivalled 24-hour customer support, every day of the year.

Our development team deliver continuous development and enhancement features to ensure our products stay ahead of the ever-growing cyber threats, with silent system enhancements deployed on a weekly basis.

We provide these services from three offices – our head office in the UK and local offices in the USA and Singapore – and increasingly through an established and growing network of resellers and partners around the world.


For further information:

Alexandra Collins​
Marketing Manager, GTMaritime
+44 (0) 1925 818918

Debbi Bonner
Managing Director, JLA Media
+31 (0)6 5263 0122