Research from IT company Panda Security found that a series of cyber attacks, dubbed the 'Phantom Menace' had been breaching the security systems of oil cargos since August 2103, with the aim of stealing information from tankers.
Despite dozens of companies being affected by the attacks, none of them had been willing to report the breaches for fear of drawing attention to vulnerabilities in their IT security networks, according to the report.
Researchers said that the Phantom Menace attacks were among the most unique they had encountered, with antivirus engines unable to detect breaches into the system.
"Initially this looked like an average non-targeted attack. Once we dug deeper, though, it became clear that this was a systematic, targeted attack against a specific sector in the oil industry," Luis Corrons, the author of the report and Technical Director of Panda Security said.
Due to the nature of the Phantom Menace attacks, researchers noted that identifying the source of the breaches is very difficult.
The report asks for more companies who have experienced the potentially devastating attacks to come forward to assist security experts, noting that without report from the alleged victims, authorities were unable to launch investigations and make arrests.
"We can limit the impact of this potentially catastrophic cyber attack, but only if the victimized companies are willing to come forward."