Best practices for cybersecurity in the maritime industry

Cybersecurity in the maritime industry: Protecting Vital Infrastructure

Maritime shipping is the best solution for shippers looking for cost-effective international transportation. It is a vast network of ports, vessels, shipping containers, and technology systems that facilitate global shipping. The increase in potential challenges in the maritime industry has endangered the security of shipping operations. Among the various challenges, cyber threats have increased due to switching to automated systems and technologies. To curb cyber threats, cybersecurity in the maritime industry is becoming crucial. It helps identify cyber risks and protect the cyber systems against hijacks and data manipulation. Let us learn more about cybersecurity practices that support the maritime industry.

What are cyber threats?

Cyberthreat refers to any malicious activity that intends to damage, steal, corrupt or disrupt data files to misuse or leak them and damage the business’s reputation. Cyber threats can emerge for various purposes, such as hijacking, terrorism, corporate feuds, and inter-nation wars. In the case of the shipping industry, the possible intent of cybercrimes revolves around

  • Destroying the reputation of businesses by sabotaging their privacy policies.
  • Corrupting the security systems to get a window for theft or other cybercrimes.
  • Hacking systems to show false data to the users to disrupt and misguide the business operations.

For example, if any industry or business is flourishing and generating high revenue, hackers try to breach their computers and cloud systems to extract crucial data. They can leak that data to damage brand reputation or use the stored information for their benefit. Most of the shipping business is carried out through maritime trade. The international economy highly relies on ocean shipping, and any breaches to the security of ships on global voyages cause a significant loss of human life and revenue. Port authorities must strive to prevent cyber attacks during cargo transportation as they can sabotage the safety of the vessel, cargo, and seafarers.

Define cybersecurity 

Cybersecurity is the act of shielding your internet-connected systems against any malicious and digital attacks. It is essential to preserve data integrity and prevent risks of cyberattacks. Once a system is attacked, it becomes vulnerable, and stored data can be easily manipulated, deleted or extracted to gain leverage. Cybersecurity helps ensure data security by employing various technologies, procedures and processes that prevent unauthorised access in any business’s computing environment. For example, on a smaller level, you can even install multiple antivirus software on your laptops and computers to prevent downloading malicious data while surfing various sites. It prevents cyber intrusions and keeps away hijackers. Similarly, cybersecurity systems are built to do the same job but on a large scale to preserve assets at high stakes.

What do you mean by cyber risk management?

Cybersecurity risk management is the strategic process of analysing a company’s digital assets and security measures to identify potential cyber threats. It helps draft new strategies and actions to implement and establish added security. Maritime cyber risk refers to any threatening event or situation that compromises shipping efficiency and safety. Cybersecurity risk management is carried out by monitoring IT systems to identify and define potential risks so that they are countered in time. The management is also responsible for mitigating sudden emergency and situational cyber risks. Cyber risk assessment helps address all security risks, how strong or weak their impact can be, and how deeply they would affect the business. The evaluation helps make informed decisions and prioritise risks based on their impact.

What is the importance of cybersecurity in the maritime industry?

Maritime security aims to safeguard and secure the integrity of human life onboard ships, cargo containers and ports. As part of this, maritime cybersecurity protects all technology in ports, vessels, and cargo containers. The maritime industry runs by integrating various technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT sensors, digital twins and container tracking. All these are interdependent; hacking into any of these can cause a ripple effect on the rest of the working technologies. Therefore, protecting all systems on the ships and ports is crucial. Since the maritime industry is turning towards automation and is becoming technology-dependent, cybersecurity is needed more than ever. It is also necessary to ensure that the real-time data incoming from IoT sensors is not corrupted or manipulated by any hacker and is free from vulnerabilities. The impact of blockchain on maritime can help in securing the transactions being shipping parties and keeping the personal data encrypted. Blockchain technology stores information into digitised blocks that cannot be hacked or manipulated and is much safer than other technologies. IT and OT (Operational Technology) systems in the maritime industry must be secured to protect incoming and outgoing data and prevent fraud, losses, and threats. The OT systems help monitor and control the devices, infrastructures and systems integrated into it.

Challenges affecting cybersecurity in the maritime industry

  1. Many shipping companies in the maritime industry are working with outdated systems that cannot operate on the latest cybersecurity requirements.
  2. Small shipping companies do not have the resources to manage challenging IT cybersecurity for their cyber systems. It, therefore, exposes the systems to cyber threats.
  3. Installing and seamlessly processing wireless networks at sea across long distances is challenging. In such a remote environment, it is difficult to establish a reliable connection across systems.
  4. Seafarers need cybersecurity knowledge and are, most of the time, not trained enough to follow the best practices for cybersecurity. 

How to enhance cybersecurity in the maritime industry?

  1. Cyber Risk Assessment– It is essential for maritime organisations, including the port management system, to evaluate the security of their network and be aware of potential cyber risks beforehand. An assessment helps identify security faults in protecting sensitive data and offers solutions for upgrading security systems if necessary.
  2. Cybersecurity strategy– Once the threat is detected through cyber risk assessment, authorities must strategise towards threat prevention. It is crucial to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of data. By comparing previous cyberattacks, it becomes easier to strengthen the cyber ecosystem. End-to-end encryption and link-oriented measures are a few strategies to implement to ensure data security.
  3. Restricting access– Unauthorised access must be restricted by sharing the access to only the shipping parties. Complete access controls must be kept from everyone. Robust authentication methods, such as two-factor authentication, can be used to avoid cybersecurity threats.
  4. Maintenance and updation– The security software and operating systems must be up-to-date and virus-free. The latest security patches must be programmed to avoid any risks of hacking or unauthorised access. Backups must be maintained at all times to preserve crucial data.
  5. Monitoring and compliances– Both national and international cybersecurity regulations for data security must be followed to align with the maritime industry standards. The functions of the apps, websites, software, and maritime systems can be continuously monitored using AI-based maintenance to detect any anomalies and resist cyber threats.

These are a few best practices that can help shipping companies and seafarers avoid cyber threats and enhance cybersecurity in the maritime industry.

LOTUS Containers is a leading marketer of shipping container solutions in Germany, extending its container services globally. We sell and lease new and used shipping containers of all types and sizes.

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