White House unveils new maritime cybersecurity standards

The White House is introducing a National Maritime Cybersecurity Plan for establishing a risk framework for operational technology in ports, threat information sharing, and creating a cybersecurity workforce.

The National Security Council stated that technology is evolving at a faster pace than the global maritime security is able to maintain.

As a result, low-cost opportunities are surfacing for malicious actors to exploit.

Therefore, collaboration between all levels of government, the private sector, and international partners remains key.

Hank Schless, security expert at Lookout, has compared port operations to the workings of small cities.

This makes it easier to see the disruptive potential of a cyber-attack.

The US maritime industry is vulnerable to them, and the 2017 NotPetya attacks illustrated this point.

In a ship, the following components can be on the receiving end of an attack:

  • Engine operations
  • Weather control
  • Radars
  • Monitoring
  • Navigation

The government aims to address these risks by outlining a concrete plan, along with cybersecurity standards.

As we move forward, risk modelling will be crucial, accompanied by best industry practices, including investigating cybersecurity risks in port and ship systems.

Maritime intelligence collection will be a priority, with an emphasis on exchanging it between all parties involved, including non-governmental organisations.

Creating a maritime cybersecurity workforce calls for an increased number of industry specialists and private sector collaboration.

Schless also highlighted the widespread use of smartphones and tablets in the maritime industry.

In the event of a breach, the consequences can be disastrous.

Sensitive shipping documents could be leaked to the public, along with other sensitive information such as the cargo’s financial value, planned routes, etc.

When entering a port in a foreign country, the crew may be asked to hand over these devices, which presents the perfect opportunity for malicious actors with physical access to install malware.