Time after time we have heard about security breaches in the news involving retailers, banks, and government entities, just to name a few. Highly sensitive information becomes public with devastating effects in the aftermath. No industry is immune from cybersecurity threats, not even the maritime industry. Not all maritime cyberattacks are publicly reported but that does not necessarily underscore the amount of malicious activity that does go on in the industry and the impact it can have.
Not only would a maritime cyberattack have serious economic repercussions, but also environmental and national security implications. The number of known cases is low as attacks often remain invisible to the company, or businesses do not want to report them for fear of alarming investors, regulators or insurers, security experts say.
Cybersecurity is becoming a critical issue within the industry due to the increased amount of networked systems throughout a ship and maritime facilities, the proliferation of mobile devices in performing seagoing and shore-based facilities operations, and an ever increasing need to collect large volumes of data to perform big data analysis. Many maritime vessels and systems are carrying outdated software and were not designed with cybersecurity in mind. In 2015, a maritime security firm found that 37 percent of servers on ships running on Microsoft were vulnerable to hacking because they had not been patched, including major container carriers in addition to important systems at a number of ports. Hackers specifically target these vulnerabilities, and many within government and the industry are often ignorant about the vulnerabilities of the networked, mission-critical computers and equipment at the heart of their operations.
Human error also plays a role. Mistakes by network administrators and users—failures to patch vulnerabilities into legacy systems, misconfigured settings, violations of standard procedures—open the door to the overwhelming majority of successful attacks. Many studies show that the lion’s share of attacks can be prevented by simply patching known vulnerabilities and ensuring that security configurations are correct. 80 percent of attacks leverage known vulnerabilities and configuration management setting weaknesses. The best opportunities in security remediation are to identify and correct, in real time, any misconfiguration or known vulnerable systems. Technology and automated solutions are needed to combat this issue, but training should also become part of a maritime company’s cyber mitigation program.
There needs to be a fundamentally different approach to security of the entire maritime infrastructure. Stakeholders must take necessary steps to safeguard maritime activities on a global level from current and emerging threats and vulnerabilities related to digitization, integration and automation of processes and systems. Heightened information sharing among stakeholders is needed and the need to develop regulations and best practices has been recognized.
Cybersecurity is of grave importance to the maritime industry. This domain spans the globe and is a diverse ecosystem of activities, people, and entities. Many within the industry need to come to terms with glaring cybersecurity vulnerabilities they might have and do all they can to mitigate them. There is no one sizes fit all solution to deal with a systems breach, and everyone across the organization must do their part.
About Gnostech Inc.:
Gnostech Inc. is an applied engineering and consulting company with expertise in information assurance and cybersecurity engineering, and major combat and space systems development and integration. For more information, visit www.gnostech.com, or stay connected by following us on LinkedIn or @GnostechInc on Twitter.