Maritime sector faces increased cyber risks

| Transport

Expert in cyber security provides information on the risks facing ship operators if they don’t conform to the DfT code of practice.

Britain’s maritime industry needs to embrace the government’s code of practice relating to cyber-security for ships, according to one of the country’s leading experts.

Andy Cuff, who heads Computer Network Defence (CND), has warned that vessels are still far too vulnerable to hackers.

The cyber-security expert said that Britain’s maritime sector, which for centuries has led the world, faces being left behind if it doesn’t face up to new challenges.

He added that The Department for Transport’s Code of Practice relating to Cyber Security for Ships should be a basic standard.

The threats are real and recently there has been an increasing number of cyber security breaches at sea. These include superyachts being remotely controlled by hackers, Maersk being devastated by ransomware and a sudden increase in US warships inexplicably colliding with other vessels in Asia, though the cyber link was vigorously denied.

Andy, whose company is headquartered in Bath, said: “The maritime sector has mostly turned a blind eye to cyber security. With ships being moving targets it is often perceived that they are too difficult to attack and provide little value to hackers. Recent events have shown this is not the case and cyber-security ought to be as routine as loading container ships correctly and providing physical security to ward off pirates.

“The exponential increase in connected technology, coupled with a laissez faire attitude to security, has resulted in many maritime vessels and fleets becoming easy victims. Recent publicity around poor security has resulted in many attackers pouncing on this weak and lucrative link, like a pack of wild dogs descending on a wounded zebra. “The problems are largely rectifiable if the maritime industry embraces the Department for Transport’s Code of Practice relating to Cyber Security for Ships.

“It explains and defines the risks facing the industry and advices how they can be combated. The document is for organisations with one or more ships, insurers, ships’ senior officers and those responsible for the day-to-day operation of maritime information technology, operational technology and communications systems.

“An achievable and affordable starting position is the Government-backed Cyber Essentials scheme, which covers five of the most important controls helping to prevent 80% of the current cyber threats. Many of our clients are surprised at how achievable Cyber Essentials is; the IT literate usually self-certify and we provide differing levels of support.

“I would also strongly advise that the connected control systems on board vessels are segregated from other networks. We occasionally go on to provide clients with some deeply technical support such as detecting when their mobile phone calls are intercepted, bugsweeping and remote monitoring from our Security Operations Centre. To safeguard its future, the maritime industry must defend itself against cyber threats or it will be holed below the Plimsoll line.”

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