12296666098?profile=RESIZE_400xRed Sky Alliance monthly queries our backend databases, identifying all new data containing Motor Vessel (MV) and Motor Tanker (MT) in the subject line of malicious emails.  Malicious actors use emails with Motor Vessel (MV) or Motor Tanker (MT) in the subject line as a lure to entice users in the maritime industry to open emails containing malicious attachments.  Red Sky Alliance is providing this list of Motor Vessels in which we directly observed the vessel being impersonated, with associated malicious emails.  The identified emails attempted to deliver malware or phishing links to compromise the vessels, parent companies, ports and the entire Transportation Supply Chain.  Full report available here.

Significant Vessel Keys Words:









Figure 1. Map displaying location of attacker domains



Figure 2. Map displaying location of victim domains



Figure 3. Distribution of attacker and target domains



Common Attack Chain Overview



Table 1: List of dates, subject lines, malware detections, and sender data seen in Red Sky Alliance’s malicious email collection from last 30 days. Information extrapolated from the Subject Line.  Full table attached.


The five most common subject lines seen in our recent query are as follows:

  • VSL: VM Accord, ORDER: TKHA-A88160011B
  • RE: NVA/IST/00892 : SB No. 3131684 : JOB NO.164///RE: BMIIST23-26970 - TAJ-2023-2 - //NHAVA SHEVA-AMBARLI--LCL-EXW//
  • Pre-Alert: LCL shpt for C/COOL GIFT.....ABC115418
  • Shipment BL :Cargo Loading, BL : 5092663*** Container



There are several themes represented by the subject lines seen.  Specifically, we can see shipping notifications, invoice notifications, and cargo arrival notices.  These emails are seen to utilize common terminology to establish credibility.  This credibility can make for a solid lure.  In terms of the sending emails themselves, we can see impersonations of companies in many industries.  In our most recent query, we saw a Chinese freight forwarding company, multiple shipping and logistics companies, a cable and rope testing facility, and an electronics manufacturer.

In addition to impersonating these companies and various types of communication, these emails are also seen to be impersonating specific vessels.  Some of the vessels  we have seen being impersonated by these emails in recent months include the following:


  • Star Trader (pictured above), which is a bulk carrier currently en route to Uruguay and sailing under the flag of Bahamas.
  • Kharis Pegasus (pictured below), which is a general cargo ship currently en route to Malaysia and sailing under the flag of Korea.
  • Baoshan Hope, which is a general cargo ship recently departed from the Philippines and is sailing under the flag of Panama.
  • Sun Grace, which is a bulk carrier current en route to Indonesia and is sailing under the flag of Korea.
  • Good Luck I, which is a bulk carrier currently en route to Singapore and is sailing under the flag of Liberia.

As one might expect, fabricating a vessel name is not difficult, but using a real ship’s name does not take much effort and could result in an increase of credibility.

The top five most prevalent malware detections associated with these emails are as follows:

  • Ks.Malware.249 – Kingsoft
  • JS/Redirector.QIL - ESET-NOD32
  • Generic.D20ACCC4 – Arcabit
  • GenericKD.69861259 - MicroWorld-eScan
  • MSIL/Kryptik.ATU!tr - Fortinet

12296664688?profile=RESIZE_400xThe Script.Ks.Malware.249 detection is a detection we mentioned in the previous report.  We have seen similar numbers of detections this month and it is still worth noting that this detection is only reported by Kingsoft and is worth investigating for false positives.  JS/Redirector.QIL specifically is a relatively new trojan detection in our system but we have been seeing JS/Redirector variants regularly since late 2022, with a significant number of detections in January.  Trojan.Generic variants we have been seeing since late 2016.  MSIL/Kryptik.ATU!tr we have been seeing since May of this year specifically, but MSIL/Kryptik variants we have been seeing since early 2020, with a large spike in detections over the summer of 2022.

Vessel Flag of Convenience – All shipping size vessels which fall under international law, must fly a country flag where it is registered.  The flag of convenience (FOC) is the system that allows the vessel owners to avoid burdensome international legal regulations.  When the ships are involved in this system, they are not connected to the laws of the countries where they are registered.  The top five (5) flag states with the largest number of registered vessels are: Panama, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Hong Kong and Singapore.[1] 

Supply Chain Spoofing:  In 2023, our analyst began looking into the transportation supply chain, as often these transportation companies are used to gain cyber access to valuable targets.  Maritime shipping is just one portion of the entire commercial transportation supply chain.  By querying our data with numerous important supply chain keywords, we can also extract some more general supply chain related malicious emails.  The five most prevalent subject lines seen with a general supply chain focus are as follows:

  • FedEx Logistic Shipment notification received
  • Fwd: Re: PO Invoice XJ210821Q PR 45258
  • DSV Solutions SRL (RO1) - Otopeni - RO11729920 - 66179922 –
  • Purchase Order
  • Payment invoice

Much like maritime related emails, we can see several themes emerge in the subject lines of these malicious emails.  Most prevalently in the last month, we can see invoice notifications, purchase orders, and shipping document notifications.  These emails can also contain impersonations of companies in many industries.  In our most recent query, we saw multiple shipping companies, a Kuwaiti hospital, a Portuguese logistics consulting company, a Nigerian industrial consulting company, and a Greek construction company.

The five most prevalent detections associated with these emails are as follows:

  • HTML:PhishingDhl-GH [Phish] – Avast
  • HTML.Doc – Ikarus
  • Ks.Malware.249 – Kingsoft
  • PDF:PhishingX-gen [Phish] – Avast
  • Trojan:HTML/Phish.SBR!MTB - Microsoft

The most prevalent detections in this month’s supply chain query all fall under the phishing banner.  HTML branded phishing detections like HTML:PhishingDhl, Phishing.HTML.Doc, and Trojan:HTML/Phish.SBR!MTB we have been seeing since 2016.  Trojan:HTML/Phish.SBR!MTB specifically is a new detection, though it is worth noting that it can also be identified as many of the others depending on the vendor.  PDF:PhishingX-gen we have been seeing regularly since late summer 2021.


Table 2: List of dates, subject lines, malware detections, and sender data seen in Red Sky Alliance’s malicious email collection from last 30 days. Information extrapolated from the Subject Line.  Full table attached.

Closing:  These analytical results illustrate how a recipient could be fooled into opening an infected email and what sorts of dangers can accompany these emails.  It is common for attackers to specifically target pieces of a company’s supply chain to build up cyber-attacks targeting larger companies.   Doing so could cause the recipient to become an infected member of the maritime supply chain and thus possibly infect victim vessels, port facilities and/or shore companies in the marine, agricultural, and other industries with additional malware.  With approximately 90% of products being shipped in the maritime related supply chain, this is a serious cyber matter. 

Fraudulent emails designed to make recipients hand over sensitive information, extort money, or trigger malware installation on shore-based or vessel IT networks remains one of the biggest day-to-day cyber threats facing the maritime industry and associated transportation supply line.   These threats often carry a financial liability to one or all those involved in the Transportation Supply Chain.  Preventative cyber protection offers a strong first-line defense by preventing deceptive messages from ever reaching staff inboxes, but malicious hackers are daily developing new techniques to evade current detection.  This supports our recommendation of daily cyber diligence.  

The more convincing an email appears, the greater the chance employees will fall victim to a scam.   To address this residual risk, software-based protection should be treated as one constituent of a wider strategy that also encompasses the human-element as well as organizational workflows and procedures.

It is important to:

  • Train all levels of the marine supply chain to realize they are under constant cyber-attack.
  • Emphasize maintaining constant attention to real-world cyber consequences of careless cyber practices or general inattentiveness.
  • Provide practical guidance on how to identify a potential phishing attempt.
  • Use direct communication to verify emails and supply chain email communication.

About Red Sky Alliance





Red Sky Alliance strongly recommends ongoing monitoring from both internal and external perspectives.  Internal monitoring is common practice.  However, external threats are often overlooked and can represent an early warning of impending cyber-attacks.  Red Sky Alliance can provide both internal monitoring in tandem with RedXray notifications on external threats to include, botnet activity, public data breaches, phishing, fraud, and general targeting.  All emails connected to the Transportation Supply Chain, to include Vessels, should be viewed with scrutiny.

Red Sky Alliance is in New Boston, NH USA. We are a Cyber Threat Analysis and Intelligence Service organization.  We have been tracking vessel impersonation for over 5 years (and maintain historical reports).  For questions, comments or assistance, please contact the lab directly at 1-844-492-7225, or feedback@wapacklabs.com

Weekly Cyber Intelligence Briefings: 

REDSHORTS - Weekly Cyber Intelligence Briefings



[1] https://naylorlaw.com/blog/flag-of-convenience/

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