European Space Agency (ESA) has started developing a solution for mitigating risk of its satellite-based ship navigation and vessel tracking services
ESA has contracted Switzerland-headquartered cyber security company CYSEC SA to investigate ways to protect its satellite services to maritime for ship positioning and tracking.
Ship safety can be compromised by jamming or hacking of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) services.
Problems can also occur if Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals can also be tampered with on vessels and between ships and the satellites.
Both GNSS and AIS signals, via satellites, are regarded as critical to improve the safety of maritime navigation and the reliability of data for vessel tracking and analytics.
There have been incidents of GNSS tampering, whether it is jamming of spoofing, in the Middle East, Black Sea and East Asia.
These are thought to be state-sponsored for disrupting maritime activities in these areas, and dangerous to vessels as GNSS signals are used by bridge electronics, such as ECDIS, for safe navigation.
Such a failure can be disastrous if the ship is, for example, navigating narrow straits or near the shore, potentially leading to groundings and collisions.
AIS signals on ships are regularly disrupted as some vessels switch off their devices.
Vessel crew have used multiple techniques to tamper with AIS data and entered zones from which they are legally excluded, for fishing or performing other illegal activities.
AIS tracks every ship in the world and this data is used by numerous organisations and downstream services, such as insurance companies.
Spoofing and jamming of AIS has led to a partial or total loss of the ability to locate ships at sea.
“Cybersecurity is a very important topic at ESA, not only for space infrastructures and missions, but also regarding all the services using satellite-based data and technologies,” said ESA Space Solutions director Laurence Duquerroy.
“Ship tracking is one of them and cyber security is a complex issue that needs to be addressed. We are looking forward to the outcomes of this feasibility study.”
CYSEC will use its secured servers and experience in satellite communications security to lead a feasibility study to investigate the protection of both GNSS and satellite-AIS (SAT-AIS) communications.
It will work under the guidance of both ESA and European maritime stakeholders in these studies.
“The shipping industry currently suffers from various cybersecurity flaws, posing great threats to the global industry,” said CYSEC vice president for space and internet-of-things (IoT)Mathieu Bailly.
“Resolving these issues is in CYSEC’s DNA by making the best cyber protection tools accessible to companies that currently do not have the expertise nor the resources to benefit from it.”
CYSEC’s objective of securing maritime communications is a natural extension of its current activities in IoT and Space, where its flagship product ARCA is already used to protect communications to satellites and connected devices on ground.
CYSEC has established a consortium to develop and test the potential solutions composed of U-blox, a global provider of leading positioning and wireless communication technologies for the automotive, industrial, and consumer markets; and Gomspace, a globally leading designer, integrator and manufacturer of high-end nanosatellites for customers in the academic, government and commercial markets.