Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Yes, pirates. iStock_000006906495XSmall

But not Talk Like a Pirate Day kind of pirates, that's all good clean (well, maybe not always so clean) fun.


And certainly not pretty-boy Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean" kind of pirates, either.

And what's with the beard? He doesn't even have enough of a beard to braid, anyway. (I assure you, I have expertise in this area).


No, I mean real pirates. Modern pirates, like these nice gentlemen who hijack, steal, kidnap, ransom, rape and kill.

Yes, piracy is a very real threat to modern mariners, private and commercial.

You may remember this story about the idiot pirates who opened fire on two US Navy vessels, a guided missile destroyer and a guided missile cruiser. (Having sailed past some of those ships in Norfolk, I cannot imagine how drugged or stupid you must be to screw with one of them- to take on a pair is beyond comprehension). Maybe you saw this recent story about the rescue of a couple of French sailors by French commandos. Those are the good stories, the rare ones with happy endings and criminals brought to justice. A quick Google search for "modern piracy" yields several enlightening results- as you might expect, Wikipedia has a decent primer, but I think the "Daily Vessel Casualty and Piracy Report " and this presentation on modern high-seas piracy from the law offices of Countryman & McDaniel are some of the best references. Although the presentation is now a bit dated, it still holds some very good information, and scanning the casualty reports for acts of piracy is chilling, especially factoring in that only about 10% of piracy is reported.

What amazes me is that piracy is still allowed to exist on a large scale. A unified, global effort could make a real difference, and quickly. When China chose to crack down on piracy several years ago (starting with a large and widely-publicized group execution of convicted pirates), it had an immediate impact in and around Chinese waters. One bit of hope comes from the above story of the French rescue, France has been a world leader in battling piracy and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for EU and UN action to curb piracy, especially in the waters around Somalia.

Piracy has always been a violent and dangerous vocation, and it has been suppressed when the pirates were put in more danger than their victims. Given the nature of the maritime environment, "hunt them down and kill them" has been a common (and effective) approach to piracy. I think with modern resources our goal should be to track and capture pirates, but the inherent danger of dealing with violent criminals at sea does mean that little quarter can be shown for those unwilling to surrender quickly.

Of course, there is no relevance to information security in this post- as we clearly have no serious or under-reported problems which we simply refuse to address in our industry. Arrr.