‘Scale of cyber-security threat against shipping unknown’ 

The scale of the cyber-security threat against shipping is unknown according to Giles Noakes, chief maritime security office of Bimco.

Speaking at a maritime security forum in Copenhagen, Noakes said the scale of the problem was unknown in the shipping as owners do not want to admit to as it is brand issue.

On top of this companies do not realise they have been a victim of an attack in the first place. “I would go as far as to say half the people don’t know they’ve been attacked,” he said at the event which was part of Danish Maritime Days.

While there are concerns over badly designed systems and unprotected networks shipboard one of the biggest threats at the moment remains malware spread by USB drives.

In a survey by Bimco and IHS of those who admitted a cyber-attack 48% said there had been a loss of corporate data, while 21% said there had been a financial loss from the attack. The latter was a figure that Noakes said he found surprising as with such a percentage of financial impact he would have expected more shipowners to be doing something to combat attacks.

However, there are also a threat to navigational systems which was seen in 4% of cases. One concern is the vulnerability of systems such as ECDIS and GPS to being hacked.

While this would not be a major concern in the open ocean in a crowded waterway it could cause a vessel such as a VLCC to be grounded or have a collision. “As ships get more and more sophisticated… and more reliant on satellite updating, it allows a way in,” Noakes said.

He also warned against the idea of regulating for cyber-security in shipping. “The expense of regulations for cyber-security would be astronomical so we must try and ensure that does not happen.

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