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OPINION The lack of effective certification makes communications equipment vulnerable to cyber risk




he time has come to introduce robust certification and approval processes for all electronic equipment on board ships. This is the only realistic way of tackling cyber-risk within the shipping industry. There has always been a certain degree of risk associated with entrusting computers to perform tasks previously carried out manually. This is not a new phenomenon. It has been with us since the 1960s and 1970s when electronic systems escaped the laboratory and found their way into real-life applications. The reason the subject comes under intense

28 Marine Log // February 2017

scrutiny today is that these systems are becoming ever more complex and are increasingly interconnected. The complexity makes it harder to detect errors that could lead to irrevocable failure. Greater connectivity allows failures to propagate or cascade through a system and also gives hackers, whatever their motivation, much greater scope to find a weak point of entry into a system. Such is the scale of the problem that, in defense circles, it is a widely held view that the next war will be fought not on the battlefield but in cyberspace. Where does that leave the maritime industry? The equipment found on ships is

traditionally subject to countless prescriptive rules, standards and regulations aimed at ensuring the safety of crew, vessels and their cargoes, as well as the environment. However, not all equipment is treated equally. There are gaps in this regulatory oversight. The hardware for establishing connectivity between ship and shore is a particularly glaring omission. It is all the more worrying as ships grow more reliant on electronic communications in their operations, especially for safe navigation but also for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of machinery systems, and to satisfy official

Shutterstock/ Lagarto Film

To be effective, the maritime industry’s approach to cyber-risk must cover all shipboard systems By Frank Coles, CEO, Transas

Marine Log February 2017  
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