cyber security activities

A Complete Overview Of Maritime Cyber Security

Maritime is one of the major contributors to the global economy, transporting around 90% of all world trade. With their increasing reliance on industrial control systems and satellite communications, ships and other vessels have become potential targets for cyber-attacks.

The majority of respondents in a 2022 Safety at Sea and BIMCO Maritime Cyber Security survey viewed cyber-attacks as a high or medium risk to their organizations. Yet, few were ready for the results of an attack.

Furthermore, sixty-four percent of respondents reported that their organization has a business continuity plan for cyber incidents. But only 24% said it was tested every three months, and 15% claimed it was tested every six to twelve months.

Only 42% of respondents reported that their organization has measures in place to protect vessels from cyber threats related to operational technology, with some describing their company policies as “careless.”

Of course, cyber-attacks against ships are becoming more and more common. Hence, the IMO maritime cybersecurity industry needs to ensure its ship operations are secure and able to handle these increasing threats.

Here, we will show you how to protect your maritime business from cyber threats. Moreover, we will cover cybersecurity risks and compliance requirements and provide an action plan to help you get started.

What is Maritime Cyber security?

digital image of a ship

Maritime cyber security is a set of strategies, tools, and technologies used to protect ships, their systems, and the networks they operate on from cyber threats. These strategies include risk management approaches, guidelines, policies, safeguards, and training. Best practices and assurance measures are also employed to ensure maximum security.

Cyber security for maritime is the likelihood of a technological asset being damaged or compromised due to an event or situation. This can lead to operational, safety, and security problems with shipping activities. The international maritime Organization (IMO) defines this risk.

The combination of IT and OT systems used by crew members and external vendors on ships can create a complex network. These systems, which were not designed to connect to the internet, may be vulnerable to hackers or malicious insiders.

In the past, maritime vessel cyber security had only minimal connectivity. So ship control engineers would use air gapping to isolate secure networks from unsecured ones physically. An air-gapped system is not connected to the Internet or any other system. Now, however, a malicious hacker or even an inexperienced insider can gain access to critical systems by simply using a USB flash drive or an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. This is concerning as modern vessels have become much more connected.

Why Cybersecurity Is Important for Your Business?

Maritime Cyber Security is becoming more and more important for the maritime safety and offshore industries as digital transformation accelerates, bringing potential threats and new regulations along with it.

Operations optimization is essential, and those who use new technologies and digital solutions will have an advantage. IMO cyber security is a major concern because ship operations mostly rely on software-based systems.

Cyber systems used on ships and mobile units are categorized as either.

IT (standard information systems)

Regarding Maritime Cyber Security, onshore operations typically have more established procedures and technologies in a place like an Information Security Management System (ISMS). A breach of IT systems could cause significant damage to a company’s reputation and finances. But it usually will not affect the safe operation of ships or units.

OT (operation and control systems)

The maritime industry lacks maturity when it comes to Maritime Cyber Security. Consequently, there is a potential attack on onboard OT systems, a threat to both the vessel and its crew. As a class society, we collaborate with the industry to ensure owners, yards, and suppliers can construct and manage secure vessels and offshore units.

How Can I Begin Developing a Cybersecurity Plan for My Vessel?

You can start working on your maritime cybersecurity action plan. But it may take some time. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do quickly to create an initial level of cybersecurity for your vessels.

Creating a Maritime Security Action Plan: How to Start?

maritime security control terminal

Developing a maritime security plan requires careful consideration, especially of its cybersecurity component. As ships become increasingly digital, onboard personnel have decreased, and resources for cybersecurity may be limited. Therefore, it is essential for ensuring the safety of vessels and offshore operations that cyber threats are taken seriously at the executive level.

Maritime safety coast guard creates a successful cybersecurity plan. Everyone has a responsibility to consider security frameworks and compliance when planning. This will require changes in both processes and culture.

The Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Security Onboard Ships is a cyber risk management approach developed by BIMCO, CLIA, ICS, INTERCARGO, InterManager, INTERTANKO, IUMI, OCIMF, and WSC to help shipowners and operators better protect their vessels from cyber threats. This guide provides advice on steps to take to maintain a secure environment.

Approach to Managing Maritime Cyber Security Risks

From the Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Security for Ships:

Identifying potential threats.

    • What are the external Maritime Cyber Security risks to a ship?
    • The misuse of technology and a lack of understanding of cybersecurity can create an internal threat to security.

Identify potential security weaknesses.

    • Create lists of onboard systems that have direct and indirect connections to each other.
    • Understand the impacts of a cybersecurity threat on these systems.
    • Understand what protection measures can and cannot do.

Evaluating risk exposure

    • What is the chance of external threats exploiting vulnerabilities?
    • What is the chance of vulnerabilities being exposed due to improper use?
    • What are the effects on safety and security if any of the vulnerabilities are being exploited?

Developing measures to protect and detect

    • Decrease the chance of vulnerabilities being taken advantage of by implementing protective measures.
    • Decrease the likelihood of a vulnerability being exploited.

Creating backup plans

    • Create a plan to reduce any potential cyber risks in order of priority.

Responding and Recovering

    • Respond to and recover from cybersecurity incidents by using the contingency plan.
    • Evaluate how effective the response plan was and reassess any potential risks or weaknesses.

Why is Maritime Cyber Security becoming more important in maritime?

  • The use of new technology, automation, and digitalization is making the industry more efficient. At the same time, Maritime Cyber Security measures must be implemented to protect against potential risks and ensure vessel operation, and passengers are kept safe.
  • The rise in cyber incidents is impacting shipping and offshore operations. As vessels become increasingly connected, they are becoming more susceptible to remote attacks that can gain access to or interfere with the vessel’s control systems.
  • Regulations and laws require owners, operators, and managers to take cyber risks into account. Examples of this include the IMO Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Risk Management and the IACS Unified Requirements on Cyber Safety, E26 and E27.
  • Commercial cyber requirements and risks, such as those outlined in TMSA 3, can affect the likelihood of obtaining a charter and could lead to considerable financial risk.

How important is Maritime Cyber Security in the maritime industry?

navigation officer on bridge

Maritime Cyber Security has a major impact on the safety of crews, vessels, cargo, and ports. It safeguards IT systems, onboard hardware, and sensors against unauthorized access, manipulation, and disruption. Furthermore, cybersecurity policies and plans address risks like data integrity and system/hardware availability onboard ships as well as in the offices of shipping companies.

Incidents that can arise from these issues include:

  • Problems can arise with data transfer between a shipping company and the vessel, such as incorrect transfer of charts from the shipping company to the vessel’s Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). This can lead to delays in the voyage or even require all charts previously installed on ECDIS to be reset.
  • Assume that there is a problem with the equipment and hardware on board a vessel. Not everyone in the crew will know how to use it properly in an emergency. That can cause more severe issues with the operations of the ship.
  • The loss or manipulation of external sensor data, which is critical for the operation of a ship, can create problems if vessel systems or shipping company systems are attacked by hackers.

With the advancement of technology in maritime safety and security logistics, it is important to take preventative measures to avoid potential problems such as those outlined above. Otherwise, they will become more common.

Maritime Cyber Security – The Bottom Line

Data safety is a critical issue in the digital age. Even tech giants developing software, platforms, and IoT devices can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In 2020, popular companies such as Twitter, Garmin, and Intel faced hacking scenarios. Consequently, there was significant exposure to large databases. End of the day, this affects all of us! That is because we are likely to be users of these products or know someone who is.

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