Massachusetts Steamship Authority Target of Cyber Attack; Ferries Delayed

The Massachusetts Steamship Authority, which operates ferries between mainland Massachusetts and Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, blamed a ransomware attack for operation problems on Wednesday morning. The attack has reportedly caused delays on the authority's ferry service.

The Steamship Authority reported that a "team of IT professionals" has been working to assess the impact of the cyber attack.

Nantucket ferry
A stock photo of a ferry entering Nantucket Harbor. The Massachusetts Steamship Authority announced ferry delays following a ransomware attack on Wednesday. Getty

Updates were provided on The Steamship Authority's official Twitter account. The first statement noted, "customers traveling with us today may experience delays."

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. As a result, customers traveling with us today may experience delays. 1/2

— Steamship Authority (@SteamshipMA) June 2, 2021

A follow-up tweet said "[a]dditional information will be provided" after the IT team completes its assessment of the situation.

The account then posted a new schedule indicating the delays caused by the hackers. The tweet included the following message: "As we work through the cyber attack issues, please know all ferries are operating at this time. We are posting the ferry schedules on our social media channels."

MARTHA'S VINEYARD FERRY SCHEDULE
As we work through the cyber attack issues, please know all ferries are operating at this time. We are posting the ferry schedules on our social media channels. Here is the Martha's Vineyard operating schedule. pic.twitter.com/aeBriwITFk

— Steamship Authority (@SteamshipMA) June 2, 2021

The company's website showed an error message on its home page on Wednesday, though it's unclear if that issue is related to the cyber attack.

The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, which does business as The Steamship Authority, is the statutory regulatory body for all ferry operations between Massachusetts and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. In addition to operating ferry services between the mainland and the islands, The Steamship Authority is the only ferry operator that carries automobiles to and from the islands.

The SSA also operates several freight vessels, making it the main provider for any commercial goods shipments not transported by air between the mainland and islands.

A ransomware attack was also responsible for the shutting down of the Colonial Pipeline in early May. Colonial is the largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the U.S., and the shutdown caused gas prices to surge, as well as panic at the pumps for motorists. In that attack, hackers reportedly stole 100 gigabytes of data before locking computers with ransomware and demanding payment.

President Joe Biden did not directly blame Russia for the Colonial Pipeline attack, but he suggested that Russia may deserve some blame for it since the hackers were allegedly located within Russia's borders. The FBI confirmed the hackers were a group known DarkSide.

A cyberattack on JBS—the world's largest meat processor—forced the shutdown of nine beef plants in the United States on Tuesday, affecting thousands of workers. A White House deputy press secretary said JBS informed the Biden administration that the attack came from "a criminal organization likely based in Russia."

It's unclear at this time who is behind the ransomware attack on The Steamship Authority. It's also unclear how long ferry service may be affected.

Massachusetts state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, tweeted about the incident. He wrote, "We've been in touch in with the State Police and the Steamship Authority, and will continue to monitor the situation. The boats are not impacted and passenger service remains as scheduled but may experience delays."

We've been in touch in with the State Police and the Steamship Authority, and will continue to monitor the situation. The boats are not impacted and passenger service remains as scheduled but may experience delays. https://t.co/epwirAnr5B

— Dylan Fernandes (@RepDylan) June 2, 2021

Newsweek contacted The Steamship Authority for comment and updates but has not heard back as of press time.