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Ransomware Attack Hits Ferry Service to Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard

David L. Ryan | Boston Globe | Getty Images
  • The Steamship Authority of Massachusetts ferry service fell victim to a ransomware attack Wednesday, the latest cyber assault affecting logistics and services in the U.S.
  • Ransomware attacks involve malware that encrypts files on a device or network that results in the system becoming inoperable.
  • Criminals behind these types of cyberattacks typically demand a ransom in exchange for the release of data.

WASHINGTON — The Steamship Authority of Massachusetts ferry service fell victim to a ransomware attack Wednesday, the latest cyber assault affecting logistics and services in the United States.

The Steamship Authority is the largest ferry service offering daily fares from Cape Cod to neighboring islands Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, according to the company's website.

"The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority has been the target of a ransomware attack that is affecting operations as of Wednesday morning," the company wrote in a statement, adding that customers may experience delays.

A "team of IT professionals" is investigating the impact of the cyberattack, according to the company.

The attack comes as summer tourists begin to flock to the iconic Massachusetts vacation spots.

The Steamship Authority said in a statement to CNBC that it is working with federal, state and local authorities to determine the extent and origin of the ransomware attack.

"There is no impact to the safety of vessel operations, as the issue does not affect radar or GPS functionality," said Sean Driscoll, communications director for the authority.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Coast Guard 1st District said that the ransomware attack posed "no threat to passenger safety."

The spokesperson added the U.S. Coast Guard 1st District is working in conjunction with the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Unit and that the FBI is currently leading the investigation.

A view of a Steamship Authority ferry approaches the Nantucket Terminal on April 25, 2020 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Maddie Meyers | Getty Images
A view of a Steamship Authority ferry approaches the Nantucket Terminal on April 25, 2020 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Ransomware attacks involve malware that encrypts files on a device or network that results in the system becoming inoperable. Criminals behind these types of cyberattacks typically demand a ransom in exchange for the release of data.

The ransomware attack against the ferry service comes on the heels of a cyberattack Sunday on Brazil's JBS, the world's largest meatpacker. The breach disrupted meat production in North America and Australia, triggering concerns over rising meat prices.

On Tuesday, the company said it had made "significant progress in resolving the cyberattack" and that the "vast majority" of beef, pork, poultry and prepared foods plants would resume operations by Wednesday, according to a statement.

The White House said Tuesday that the ransomware attack on JBS is believed to have originated from a criminal organization likely based in Russia.

Last month, a criminal cybergroup known as DarkSide struck the jugular of America's fuel pipelines with a sweeping ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline.

The cyberattack forced the company to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of pipeline, leading to a disruption of nearly half of the East Coast fuel supply and causing gasoline shortages in the Southeast.

Colonial Pipeline paid the ransom to hackers, one source familiar with the situation confirmed to CNBC.

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