Pirates like those shown here aboard a dhow in waters off western Malaysia in January 2006 were using data stolen from a shipping company’s systems to target cargo ships and steal specific crates of valuables in hit-and-run attacks. (credit: US Navy)

When the terms “pirate” and “hacker” are used in the same sentence, usually it’s a reference to someone breaking digital rights management on software. But that wasn’t the case in an incident detailed in the recently released Verizon Data Breach Digest report, unveiled this week at the RSA security conference. Verizon’s RISK security response team was called in by a global shipping company that had been the victim of high-seas piracy aided by a network intrusion.

The shipping company experienced a series of hit-and-run attacks by pirates who, instead of seeking a ransom for the crew and cargo, went after specific shipping containers and made off with high-value cargo.

“It became apparent to the shipping company that the pirates had specific knowledge of the contents of each of the shipping crates being moved,” the RISK team recounted in the report. “They’d board a vessel, locate by bar code specific sought-after crates containing valuables, steal the contents of that crate—and that crate only—and then depart the vessel without further incident.”

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Pirates hack into shipping company’s servers to identify booty