Insurers urge maritime industry to address cyber threat

MAKING a thorough risk assessment is the crucial first step in thwarting cyber crime at one's own institutions, delegates to 6th Med Ports Conference in Livorno, Italy, were told by a TT Club marine insurance expert recently.

TT Club's Andrew Huxley, freight transport specialist insurer, said cyber activity is a daily operational risk which needs to be addressed urgently.

"Ultimately, the main threat is from human error - downloading malicious content, opening an unsecured web browser or falling victim to social engineering attacks and phishing scams," he said.

"A BIMCO survey in 2016 suggested that more than 20 per cent of respondents admitted to cyber attacks and SeaIntel Maritime Analysis estimated 44 per cent of the top 50 container carriers had weak or inadequate cyber security policies," said Mr Huxley.

"Many in the marine supply chain business have operations characterised by widespread office networks and a reliance on multiple third party suppliers," he said.

"Often IT systems are of an in-house, legacy nature, which may be poorly protected by security software," he warned.

Ports and terminals are also exposed to threats as they are at the confluence of physical communications activity, he said. The data interfaces are complex and the drive towards interconnected control systems and efficient processes, provides the opportunities for outside malicious interference.

Most of all, at the ship/port interface there is much opportunity to cause loss and damage, far beyond the persistent exposure to criminal activity, said the TT Club statement.

"The problem is intensifying. At a global level reports by AV-TEST indicate that on average 4.2 new files of malware code were generated every second last year. From a maritime supply chain perspective an example of serious IT incursion in 2017 was the attack on over 20 ships in Novorossiysk," it said.

"This sent false signals and resulted in shipboard equipment providing false information as to the location of the ships. There is speculation that this incident could have been a state-sponsored attack," it said.

A second incident, the NotPetya strike, impacted many in the supply chain, including AP Moller-Maersk, resulting in large scale disruption and substantial costs for those immediately impacted and their partners.

The US Coast Guard issued a draft Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NAVIC) titled "Guidelines for Addressing Cyber Risks at Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) Regulated Facilities".

The circular currently under review requires incorporation of personnel training, drills and exercises to test capabilities, security measures for access control, handling cargo, delivery of stores, procedures for interfacing with ships and security systems and equipment maintenance.

Additional national and regional initiatives, exemplified in the European Union by the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS Directive) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), are indicative of the development of regulatory expectations.

TT Club, jointly with UK P&I Club and cyber security consultants NYA, has published a paper entitled "Risk Focus: Cyber - Considering Threats in the Maritime Supply Chain".