New Trends in Maritime Cybersecurity in 2024


Published Jun 24, 2024 12:41 PM by Sadie Smith

Modern ships are high-tech vessels, with so many of their functions connected to the internet. Thanks to modern connection options (satellite, etc.), you will have internet even in the open seas. With this, you can implement more smart solutions and use advanced technology to enhance the quality of life on the boat and even boost the functionality of the boat as a whole.

The problem is that, since your vessel is connected to the internet, it’s not exposed to all sorts of cyberattacks, and protecting it needs to be your top priority. Sure, a hacker turning your lights off at random sounds like a nightmare scenario, but imagine them having the ability to turn off your systems while you are out in the open (potentially in the middle of the night).

Fortunately, the risks of this are minimal if you approach your cybersecurity right. Here is what you should do.   

1.    Using the right software

Seeing as how all the maritime systems are digital, it is essential that you have a robust antivirus system installed. This will play a crucial role in protecting both your ship and shore-based operations from cyber threats. You see, it is not just about the boat and boat systems. There is often a communication line with the team on shore, and this team sometimes operates on more traditional operating systems.

Just remember that there is a lot at stake here. It’s not like getting your device infected with a virus or malware and losing a few files or having a few photos leaked. Sure, even this can be a serious blow to one’s life and reputation, but when it comes to maritime systems, we’re talking about lives being at stake. 

This is why you can’t just randomly pick a system. You need to find a reviewer who’s always testing antivirus software and go with some of their top picks. Also, going with a free version is never advised when so much is at stake. 

2.    Cybersecurity awareness and training programs

Your cybersecurity methods are only effective if the persons in question use them the right way. Proper protocols are in place for a reason, and most of it is not really intuitive. This means that you have to commit to onboarding and training; otherwise, all your efforts will be for nothing. 

One of the things that everyone in the system needs to understand is the importance of collaborating and sharing information through the proper channels. This way, there’s no interference or intercepting.

Also, sharing information with organizations like the Maritime Cybersecurity Center gives you more insight that you need in order to improve your cybersecurity systems. Just think about the state that anti-malware and antivirus systems would be in if they had to analyze every single scenario on an individual basis. 

These centers are collaborative spaces working together to make the world of maritime cybersecurity safer as a whole. Since protecting the global shipping industry is so important, a lot of resources and interest have been poured into this field. 

3.    Enhanced endpoint security

The most important thing about maritime cybersecurity is to find a way to provide protection to the endpoint users. This is what really counts, what really matters. If the system is not secure enough on this end, it is not safe to use. This should always be a top priority. 

The first thing you need is a range of endpoint protection platforms. We’ve already discussed one of these platforms in the first section (the antivirus). You also need an anti-malware system, as well as a firewall. These create digital barriers that the majority of online threats won’t be able to cross. 

These tools are supposed to protect your users by detecting threats and acting to remove them. They need to notify, block, warn, and take protective measures to prevent users from accidentally making matters worse. 

Just think about it: the majority of users are not cybersecurity experts. They’re ordinary people out in the sea or even commercial sailors. In the past, these weren’t positions where you didn’t need to know much about cybersecurity. This will have to change.

4.    AI and machine learning in cybersecurity

One of the biggest advances in the field of cybersecurity is definitely the introduction of AI and machine learning. This is a relatively complex concept that can be brought down to two simple things. 

First, the autonomy of cybersecurity methods is far higher, which means that AI can now detect and eliminate threats much more effectively, often without even having to ask for your permission and without causing any problems. This is a huge boost to maritime cybersecurity, seeing as how the entire team usually already has their hands full with actually running the ship.

Second, it can learn more effectively from previous breaches and cybersecurity incidents. This means that, with each incident, the system will become more robust and more dependable, since it will have more data to study.  

5.    Integration of cybersecurity with physical security

Navigation systems, communication networks, and even cargo management systems on ships predate the Internet by quite a bit. Most of the time, these systems are deliberately separated for the sake of cybersecurity, but what if this didn’t have to be the case?

In order for this split to be unnecessary, you would have to ensure that your digital systems are safe on the network to the level where they never really endanger the physical security of your ship.

Also, you need to understand that these threats are far more serious than their counterparts. After all, we’re talking about someone tampering with your navigation while you’re out in the open. It’s really hard for a sailor to come up with anything riskier. 

6.    Regulatory compliance and standards

The shipping industry, private vessels, and the navy are always heavily regulated. Why? Well, because this transportation, although ancient, is problematic for a lot of different reasons. Just think about it, the transportation vessels are valuable, potential incidents can be catastrophic, and, there’s even a risk of an ecological disaster if things go wrong.

The worst part is that, due to the modern level of digitalization in this field, these challenges are now even more dangerous (and more likely). A remote malicious party could mess with your navigation and cause a crash or a spill, which is why maritime cybersecurity is already heavily regulated.

In other words, you have to tend to this in order to abide by regulatory compliance. All in all, you have to do it, and it’s not optional. 

7.    Automated threat response systems

The last thing you need is the automated threat response systems in place. This way, you’ll ensure three things.

  • First, you’ll ensure that the speed of response is adequate. This is often crucial in preventing or averting a full-blown disaster.
  • Second, you’ll minimize the impact of a disaster that actually happens. Usually, it takes time for a breach to cause any real damage.
  • Third, you’ll eliminate the most unreliable part of your response - the human factor.

In the end, if you have the option to automate the system, you should always use the opportunity to do so.

Maritime cybersecurity has never been more important 

Ultimately, with more and more boat systems using the internet and more and more smart devices in use on ships, the issue of cybersecurity is more important than ever. This is why you need to educate yourself on the latest cybersecurity measures used in the industry. This is just one of the ways to stay safe out in the open sea. 


About the author

Sadie Smith came into the digital marketing world from newspapers. She mostly specialized in local issues and this gives a unique perspective when it comes to dealing with stories that need thorough research and personal touch.  

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.