Experts in cyber security and maritime operations are forging ahead with the creation of a first-of-its-kind research facility
The Cyber-SHIP Lab at the UK’s University of Plymouth was awarded funding by Research England (part of UK Research and Innovation) in November 2019 and will bring together a host of connected maritime systems currently found on a ship’s bridge.
Once the build phase of the project is complete, it will enable researchers to improve global shipping security while providing training for those working in the sector. A key element of the project is its extensive collaboration with industry, and there are 18 commercial partners working alongside the University to bring it to fruition.
They include ship operators, and companies involved in supplying hardware and software, constructing ship’s bridges, and training and managing personnel who work in the commercial shipping industry all over the world.
Executive dean for science and engineering and principal investigator for the project, Professor Kevin Jones says “This project has the potential to be a real game-changer for the shipping industry. Cyber attacks are a Tier 1 national UK threat and the need to protect our maritime operations has never been more crucial or more challenging. As such, the industry involvement in this project is vital, as it is only by working with those in the sector that we can develop the solutions that can be applied in the real world.”
The Cyber-SHIP Lab has been funded for three years with a view to it then becoming self-sustaining and will address complex and interlinked issues affecting the maritime industry.
It will consider both technological and human behavioural aspects to effectively mitigate threats, especially considering the huge variation in vessel types, which can be subjected to cyber attacks in differing ways for differing motivations.
The University signed a memorandum of understanding with Information Risk Management (Altran Group’s World Class Centre for Cyber security) in late 2017, and that partnership will continue through the Cyber-SHIP Lab project. Information Risk Management chief executive Charles White says “As a global engineering R&D company, Altran recognises that cyber security is now at the core of safety criticality for maritime companies. We look forward to working further with the University of Plymouth to explore best how these fantastic facilities can be used to further advance the industry while protecting critical national infrastructure.”
Nettitude, a provider of cyber security services through the Lloyd’s Register network, is also among the industry partners. Nettitude chief technical officer Ben Densham, and Lloyd’s Register cyber product development manager Elisa Cassi added “The ability to focus dedicated time, resources and thinking into the current and future cyber security and safety needs of the marine and offshore sector is essential. The Cyber-SHIP Lab at the University of Plymouth will provide a unique platform to enable the collective industry to best prepare, design and build relevant and effective technology, architecture, processes and training to meet these needs. As automation, digital twins, connectivity and cloud services are embraced, the ability to simulate, predict and test threat scenarios against these and legacy systems will ensure any digital transformations can be secured appropriately.”
BMT UK research and development lead Jake Rigby said “As we embrace the advantages and opportunities of an increasingly interconnected world, we must ensure we continue to invest in, and provide support to, cyber security. As we have extensive ship design and cyber security capabilities within BMT, this topic is particularly important for us.”