Ports are on the front line of the maritime industry’s cyber war and are vulnerable to hackers and cyber attacks, panellists told attendees during Riviera’s ‘Where port security meets cyber security’ webinar, held in association with the Maritime Transportation System - Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC)
The key message from cyber security experts was that operators and authorities need to know their vulnerabilities and be prepared for a constant barrage of cyber threats.
Panellists offered insights into an array of cyber risks facing the maritime industry as well as guidance on how to cost-effectively mitigate those threats.
Law firm McDermott, Will & Emery partner Paul Ferrillo, cyber risk management specialist group Maritime Transportation System ISAC executive director Scott Dickerson and University of Plymouth, Faculty of Science and Engineering lecturer in cyber security Kimberly Tam made up the panel.
Mr Ferrillo said all ports and terminals are in the firing line of cyber attackers. “If you have data, you are a target,” he warned. “You will be attacked and breached – you may already be breached, but may not know it.”
He said potential attackers may have breached existing security measures for reconnaissance. “Everyone can be attacked – there is no free pass,” said Mr Ferrillo, adding port operators need to be prepared for defence breaches.
Dr Tam agreed would-be hackers could be snooping inside servers undetected. “Hackers would need a lot of reconnaissance of maritime and port servers,” she explained. “We are unable to see who is inside these networks.”
Port operators may not know the intentions of potential hackers or ransomware until it is too late. Hackers could be in servers to steal information or feed misinformation about manifests, or they could input ransomware. “It is not just smash and grab,” said Dr Tam. Dr Tam is also academic lead of the Cyber-Ship Lab, a £3M (US$39M) Research England supported test project to address cyber-security issues that affect the maritime industry.
With all these attack vectors, port operators need to understand their vulnerabilities and ensure they are prepared, said Mr Dickerson. “People need to be aware of the threats,” he said. “It is not just a technology challenge.” Some of the solutions for cyber security is to train people to be alert and detect threats. Cyber security is also about having the correct processes in place.
“Some ports do not have a dedicated IT person, so at operational level people need to understand how they are being targeted and make sure they have good cyber hygiene,” said Mr Dickerson.
Webinar attendees tended to agree with Mr Dickerson that cyber security is more than just a technical challenge. When asked: What type of challenge is cyber security viewed as in your organisation? 44% said technology including IT, internet of things technology and operating systems. Another 37% said it was an organisational challenge and another 19% said regulatory.
Attendees were also asked about their preparedness for IMO’s upcoming requirements for cyber security in 2021. Of the attendees that voted, 40% said they had started, but have immature processes and technical solutions. Another 35% said there had been significant progress, but they had not addressed all the risks yet. Around 15% were confident their approach had been very mature, and risks were effectively managed, but 10% said they had not started addressing the challenge.
Attendees were also asked: What do you think is the best way to maintain situational awareness of current maritime threats? Around 63% thought sharing information with industry peers was the best method for providing situational awareness. Another 22% thought open source news, while 13% said generic cyber threat intelligence providers would be the best and 2% said governments would be.
The experts said cyber threats specific to port operations include manipulation of manifests, ransomware and extortion, fraudulent payments and rewiring of money.
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Panellists (left to right): University of Plymouth, Faculty of Science and Engineering lecturer in cyber security Kimberly Tam, McDermott, Will & Emery partner Paul Ferrillo and Maritime Transportation System ISAC executive director Scott Dickerson. Dr Tam is also academic lead of the university’s Cyber-Ship Lab.