Shipping Benefits of Helping Seafarers Gain More Cybersecurity Awareness

By Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine

Maritime cybersecurity awareness is critical for the safety and stability of the supply chain. Hackers can target any organization today, but maritime organizations are at exceptionally high risk. The estimated global cost of cybercrime totaled $8.44 trillion as of 2022 and is projected to nearly triple by 2027.

The maritime industry plays a vital role in the world’s supply chains, which can be very sensitive to disruptions, including cyberattacks.This makes cargo ships and ports prime targets for hackers. Protecting ships, passengers, crew and cargo from cybercrime relies on improving cybersecurity awareness among seafarers. How can shipping benefit from high cybersecurity awareness in the maritime industry?

1. Improved Passenger and Crew Safety

Improving maritime cybersecurity awareness can directly impact the safety of passengers and crews at sea. Maritime cyberattacks can specifically target ships’ critical systems, including communications, control and navigation. Poor security protocols and preparedness can put these systems at risk, jeopardizing the safety of everyone relying on a ship’s computers.

When everyone in the maritime industry is more aware of cybersecurity risks and best practices, they can help protect ships from hacking. This includes seafarers on the shore and the water. Ships can be hacked through land-based means, such as ports’ or shipping companies’ networks.

2. Preventing the Shipment of Illegal Goods

One of the biggest concerns in maritime security today is smuggling. Unfortunately, it’s common for criminals to attempt to ship goods illegally by hiding them on cargo ships. Cybersecurity plays a vital role in detecting and preventing the smuggling of illegal goods at sea.

Smugglers can hack into ports’ networks to manipulate the movement of shipping containers to and from ships. This allows smugglers to sneak their containers of illegal goods onto ships without port personnel realizing it. Phishing is one of the most common methods hackers use to break into ports’ networks for this type of smuggling activity.

Improving cybersecurity awareness among seafarers and port employees can help prevent smugglers from exploiting ports’ networks. This is important for all seafarers, too, not just those working on large cargo ships. Smugglers can use any type of ship to conduct illegal trade like this, so all seafarers should know the signs of a cyberattack and how to prevent them.

3. Preventing Cargo Damage and Lost Profit

Hackers are increasingly targeting supply chain organizations due to the high importance of the industry for countless people. Hackers know a significant amount of money could be on the line if any segment of the supply chain experiences a disruption.

A single 40-foot shipping container can cost upwards of $8,200 today, not including the thousands of dollars worth of valuable goods stored inside. Delaying or compromising a single cargo ship could put billions of dollars on the line, creating a highly appealing target for hackers.

As a result, supply chain businesses are under high pressure to resolve cyber incidents as quickly as possible. Hackers hope this pressure will increase the likelihood that a supply chain victim will pay a ransom in a cyberattack. Even if a supply chain business chooses not to pay a ransom, any cyberattack can cause significant delays and potentially damage cargo.

Maritime cybersecurity awareness is the key to preventing cargo damage or lost profit due to a cyber incident. Seafarers are an essential line of defense, particularly when it comes to avoiding cyberattacks directly targeting ships. This is especially true for seafarers whose roles give them access to key systems like bridge controls and navigation. These people are more likely to be targeted for phishing or credential theft due to their high user access.

4. Maintaining Supply Chain Stability

Maritime cybersecurity awareness is vital for ensuring the supply chain suffers as few disruptions as possible. Ports are one of the most complicated parts of the supply chain, where every delay can have a large-scale ripple effect.

For instance, if a cyberattack leaves a cargo ship stuck in port and unable to move, it could create a days-long traffic jam. Shipments intended to pass through that port could arrive at their final destinations weeks late.

Despite the high risk of cyberattacks, less than 50% of supply chain professionals report having high confidence in their employer’s cybersecurity readiness. Preparation is the foundation of preventing and defending against cyberattacks in any industry. This is especially true in today’s threat landscape, where phishing attacks and credential theft schemes increasingly target employees. 

High maritime cybersecurity awareness minimizes the likelihood of employees and seafarers at any level falling victim to cybercrime. When people know the red flags of phishing content or understand good password practices, they are more prepared to protect themselves from cyber risks. Additionally, good cybersecurity awareness gives employees the knowledge they need to recognize and report potential security vulnerabilities.

All these actions help minimize the potential for a successful cyberattack. Small everyday steps from individual seafarers and maritime employees can go a long way toward ensuring the supply chain stays on track.

5. Detecting Potential Risks Sooner

Response times can determine whether or not a cyberattack is successful. Well-prepared organizations can detect and shut down potential cyber incidents sooner, reducing the risk of losing data, time or money. Yet, studies have found that organizations take nearly 300 days on average to detect and respond to cyber incidents.

Luckily, maritime cybersecurity awareness can help stop them. Rapid cyber incident response times hinge on early detection of potential threats.

So, if seafarers don’t know the signs of suspicious digital activity, they are less likely to recognize red flags of hacking early on. Improving maritime cybersecurity awareness equips seafarers and maritime employees with the knowledge to help deter cyberattacks.

For instance, a seafarer might get a strange email that appears to be from local port personnel but requests unusual personal information. If they knew the signs of a phishing email, they could report the incident to the port to warn others of the threat. This could potentially prevent dozens or hundreds of other people from giving away critical information through the same phishing email.

Protecting Shipping With Maritime Cybersecurity Awareness

Minimizing supply chain disruptions is a top priority in the shipping industry today. High maritime cybersecurity awareness can help stop cyberattacks before they happen, saving shipping companies’ data, time and resources. Improving cybersecurity awareness among seafarers gives them the tools to recognize cyber threats and take steps to protect themselves, their ship, their cargo and their fellow mariners.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief at Revolutionized Magazine. A regular contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine, she has over four years of experience writing articles in the industrial sector.



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