How to Manage Shipping Technology and Negate Cyber Security Risks in Maritime Transportation Systems

Andrew Zola
Andrew Zola on Linkedin

The global shipping business is at the heart of many economies across the planet, so ensuring its security for the safe and seamless flow of goods is paramount.

As technology has become an essential part of the industry, maritime transportation systems have come to be vulnerable to malicious cyber attacks.

This means that steps should be taken to enhance and manage security on all computerized systems from container inspection to navigation to various distribution channels. The threat is also very real. For example, in Europe, 69% of Danish shipping companies experienced cyber attacks last year.

Cybersecurity risks in the shipping industry include the following:

  • Navigation equipment vulnerabilities
  • Terminal Operation Systems (TOS) vulnerabilities
  • Threats to the ports themselves
  • Voyage Data Recorder vulnerabilities
  • Vulnerabilities in the cargo handling systems

So how should the shipping industry effectively respond to these maritime transportation threats? Let’s take a look.

Maritime Cyber Security Demands a Proactive Approach

While the cybersecurity vulnerabilities to onboard and onshore shipping systems are very real, the threat level isn’t at a critical stage (at least, not yet!). This is because the skill set required to hack into such systems is highly unusual and requires precise timing to cause any real damage.

However, the complexities associated with maritime transportation systems won’t be unfamiliar to bad actors for much longer. As a result, shipping companies and port operators need to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity to ensure that all their vital assets are adequately protected.

As most attacks aim to alter the real-time data generated by the vessel, the crew on the ship also need to be highly vigilant.

Vulnerability Assessment and Training Will Be Critical

Like any enterprise manages its IT infrastructure, the first step to preparing yourself for a potential breach is to conduct a security vulnerability assessment. This process will be key to identifying the limitations of your system that can be exploited by various bad actors. If a third-party is involved, then it’s also important to perform a third-party risk assessment.

More often than not, cybersecurity breaches are the result of negligence. Sometimes it can also come in the form third-party providers who bring their own set of vulnerabilities or it can also take the form of a disgruntled employee with ransomware on a USB stick.

To respond to these threats effectively, shipping enterprises and port operators need to actively look for ways to improve security and fill in the gaps in vulnerable legacy systems. However, this alone won’t be enough to secure the vessel.

You also have to regularly train all stakeholders to properly identify risks and effectively respond to them. Beyond training, you also have to develop robust contingency and incident response plans to help reduce the potential damage of an attack.

It’s also a good idea to test these plans with simulated cyber attacks to ascertain if they’re effective. However, to successfully avoid attacks on maritime transportation systems, it has to regularly go through a reassessment process as cybersecurity threats evolve.

As the shipping and logistics industry actively embraces the Internet of Things to digitally transform their business models, effectively managing security risks will be paramount going forward. This means that maintaining enhanced cybersecurity will be vital to ensure that your cargo, crew, data, passengers, and vessels are protected.

Need help conducting a security assessment of your maritime transportation systems? We can help, get in touch with Digi117 now!