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Abatis would save ships from Wannacry cyber attack

Mon 15 May 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Abatis would save ships from Wannacry cyber attack
Abatis CEO Kerry Davies: Technology would prevent Wannacry from infecting ship networks

Shipping companies could protect their onboard and shore office networks from the latest ransomware that infected multiple companies and organisations over the weekend.

Shipowners, managers and operators could use hard drive firewalls, such as Abatis to protect their networks from all types of malware, including Wannacry. This infected organisations in 150 countries, such as the UK’s National Health Service, German rail network Deutsche Bahn, US delivery group FedEx and car manufacturers Renault and Nissan.

The malware was spread by fake emails, infecting computers on key networks over the weekend. Microsoft said this was a wake-up call for all governments and industries as it affects data that can be accessed by hackers.

Ransom notes were sent from the Wannacry creators to administrators threatening to delete files unless a payment is made.

Abatis hard drive firewall is a small piece of code that sits inside the kernel of the operating system software and controls what files are written to the permanent storage. It would prevent any malware from writing to this storage, said Abatis chief executive Kerry Davies.

This would mean any network Abatis was installed on would be protected from ransomware such as Wannacry, he said. Abatis works with local authorities, key navies, defence contractors and shipping companies to protect their networks. The technology works on any Windows or Linux operating system including legacy ones.

“The Wannacry/Wannacrypt ransomware that has had such a devastating impact on organisations in the UK and throughout Europe should be a wake-up call to organisations that they need to look to innovative new technologies like Abatis to protect themselves," said Mr Davies.

"The reason that the attack was so successful was not just because it attacked old legacy operating systems like Windows XP, but because the attack had never been seen before. There was no signature for it which would have allowed the traditional, signature-based antivirus products to have spotted it and stopped it." He expects there to be more ransomware attacks of a similar nature that could infect networks worldwide. "Slightly modified variants of the ransomware will be released for which again the antivirus vendors will have no signature and hence the infections will be successful," said Mr Davies.

Abatis protects Windows platforms as old as NT4 right up to the very latest Windows 10 and Server2016 in real, virtual and embedded forms using a patented new approach that does not require signature files and hence can stop known and as-yet unknown malware. "Abatis is able to protect workstations and servers efficiently, safely and with no measurable performance overhead." Mr Davies said. A full feature on cyber security will be published in a future issue of Marine Electronics & Communications.

Other cyber security technology could also prevent these types of infection. These could include smart antivirus programs that are updated daily and one-way firewalls that prevent all unauthorised software from entering critical networks.

Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it.

Some of these technologies will be discussed at Riviera’s Maritime Cyber Risk Management Summit, which will be held in London in association with Norton Rose Fulbright, on 20 June.

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