Tips for Keeping the Yacht Cyber Secure

13 August 2021 By Peter Broadhurst
yacht helipad during sunset featuring satellites
Adobe Stock/Todd

Peter Broadhurst is Inmarsat’s Maritime Senior VP Safety, Security, Yachting and Passenger. He has 28 years of experience in the maritime industry. +44 207 728 1000;;

The evolving threat of cyber-attacks is a critical issue for superyachts. As more vessels access the advanced tech enabling global, always-on connectivity and the growth of digitalization accelerates, the vulnerability of onboard systems is increasing. A targeted or untargeted cyberattack can result in theft of money from companies or individuals on board, endangerment of the safety or reputation of guests and crew, or the operational integrity of the vessel being jeopardized.

But there’s still a lack of awareness about the most effective cybersecurity measures. Data from the 2020 Inmarsat Superyacht Connectivity Report reveals that 40 percent of crew don’t know the difference between standard anti-virus software and multi-layered endpoint security, while 43 percent hadn’t completed cybersecurity training. As the fleet heads towards a new cybersecurity regime under new IMO obligations, there’s more urgency for strengthened cyber resilience as yachts increase data usage and use more devices, applications, and media channels than before.

Since January 2021, an IMO resolution requires vessels’ SMS be documented to include cyber-risk management. While not mandatory for all, yachts should use the stricter framework implemented by the IMO. We produced Cyber Security requirements for IMO 2021, outlining steps to identify, protect against, detect, respond to, recover from, and report on cyberattacks.

Since January 2021, an IMO resolution requires vessels’ SMS be documented to include cyber-risk management.

First, the IMO states that the ISM should be updated and amended to reflect cybersecurity reporting and authority. Yachts without ISM should create and document a plan with policies and training. The IMO also requires yacht personnel understand the onboard assets, know what’s on board, what it’s used for, what data it holds, and if the software is up to date. These must be protected against phishing, spyware, botnets, etc. An effective solution should prevent attacks while removing threats throughout the onboard endpoints. People are generally the weakest link and, while you can implement tools and software to protect your assets, cybersecurity training ensures crew recognize spam and complete regular drills and testing to increase protection.

Finally, the IMO requires effective monitoring and reporting. Check tools indicate any issues and ensure there’s a strategy if the vessel is compromised or if you have ransomware, for example.

These key points can be addressed by adopting a multi-layered cyber-resilience solution built for the maritime user, such as Inmarsat’s Fleet Secure Endpoint, which covers training and awareness and provides protection, monitoring, and reporting tools.

This article originally ran in the July 2021 issue of Dockwalk.


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