June 27, 2012:
Shipping companies that have had vessels with valuable cargoes seized by Somali pirates have come to realize that some of these attacks were not just blind luck on the part of the pirates. Interviews with sailors freed once the ransom was paid began to yield hints that the pirates were receiving very specific information on what ships to attack, where those ships would be, and whether or not they had armed security men aboard. Police and military intelligence analysts traced these leads to criminal gangs in Italy, Britain, and other countries. The gangs had people who could hack computer systems of shipping companies and obtain details on ships (cargo, location, security arrangements). This information was then sold to Persian Gulf brokers (some associated with local criminal gangs) who worked with the Somali pirate gangs (to negotiate ransoms and arrange for the purchase of supplies and luxury goods). In one case bonuses were offered to the hacker gangs for information that paid off in a big ransom. The whole point of getting this information was to concentrate pirate efforts on the most lucrative targets. Unguarded ships were easier to take and valuable cargoes resulted in larger ransoms.
Shipping companies have been advised to increase the security around their web sites and networks in general.