Five Steps to Cyber Secure Ships
01 Aug, 2017

Cyber security is a fluid concept in rapid motion. As new technologies continually change the way we engage with the digital world, there is a growing consensus that shipping needs to broaden its understanding of cyber security. It’s important to think in the long-term about what a safe digital future will look like, and to future proof systems and processes to prevent them from being vulnerable to an attack tomorrow that may not even seem feasible today.

Cyber risk is no longer confined to shore-based operations. Shipboard systems are equally vulnerable to cyber-attack, and if a vessel’s systems are compromised, the consequences will be significant. Given that cyber risks emerge at the intersection between technology and people, it necessarily encompasses a broad agenda that includes environmental security, economic security, and of course, human security.

In the interest of helping the industry stay safe, here are our top 5 tips to stay cyber-savvy:

       1. Cyber security is not just an information technology issue. 

Because the normal functions of a ship can be negatively impacted by digital attacks, cyber security must be treated as an operational concern. Conversations must start at a senior level, and strategy should be regularly reviewed.

2. It’s time for scenario planning

By revealing obstructions ahead of time, scenario planning offers a framework for discussion and strategy development that provides context for how to manage future uncertainties. Inertia and overreaction in times of crisis can be equally fatal. By exploring how the future could unfold, companies reduce their fragility.

3. Prevention is better than cure

Hackers are only one part of the threat picture. Cyber accidents and oversights have the potential to be as impactful as cyber attacks. As part of on-going crew training and awareness campaigns, all staff must be trained to identify and mitigate digital risks - from how to avoid installing malware, to changing default administrator passwords.

4. Follow best practice guidelines

Strength in numbers is the stoutest defence against an amorphous enemy. Benchmarking is an important element of any operational process and can also be used as a platform from which to innovate. The implementation of best practice guidelines is the most effective way to translate empirical research from up-to-the-minute case studies and industry-wide quality schemes into tangible action.

As a starting point, The Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships are supported by BIMCO, CLIA, ICS, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, OCIMF and the IUMI and provide an industry approved risk-based approach to identifying and responding to cyber threats.

5. Keep your friends close

Understanding the cyber security preparedness of other stakeholders in your supply chain(s) is critical to calibrating your risk exposure. Frequent dialogue is needed with your partners and clients to ensure they’re able to fully protect the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of their networks and systems.

Risks should be identified, tracked, and assigned owners in a way that increases their visibility and allows organisations to anticipate their impact. 


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