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‘Cyber activity is the norm, not the exception’

Supply chain operators are vulnerable to disruptive cyber activity, from criminals or other perpetrators, impacting operations and putting commercially sensitive or confidential data at risk

Huxley-AndrewItaly’s Livorno hosted the 6th Med Ports Conference on 17-19 April. International transport, logistics insurance and related risk management services provider TT Club’s Europe, Middle East and Africa Development Director Andrew Huxley highlighted in his speech at the event that, cyber activity is a daily operational risk which needs to be addressed urgently: “Many in the marine supply chain business have operations characterised by widespread office networks and a reliance on multiple third party suppliers. Often IT systems are of an in-house, legacy nature, which may be poorly protected by security software.”

Specifically, ports and terminals are exposed to threats as they are at the confluence of physical and communications activity. The data interfaces are complex and the drive towards interconnected control systems and efficient processes, exacerbates the opportunities for outside malicious interference. Most of all, at the ship/port interface there is much opportunity to cause loss and damage, far beyond the persistent exposure to criminal activity.

The problem is intensifying. At a global level reports by AV-TEST indicate that on average 4.2 new files of malware code were generated every second last year. From a maritime supply chain perspective an example of serious IT incursion in 2017 was the spoofing attack on over twenty ships in Novorossiysk, Russia. Navigation experts claim the spoofing sent false signals and resulted in ship-board equipment providing false information as to the location of the ships. There is speculation that this incident could have been a state-sponsored attack. A second incident, the NotPetya strike, impacted many in the supply chain, including AP Moller-Maersk, resulting in large scale disruption and substantial costs for those immediately impacted and their partners.

As to the extent of attacks, research that is available reveals a worrying situation.  “A BIMCO survey in 2016 suggested that more than 20 percent of respondents admitted to cyber attacks and last year a SeaIntel Maritime Analysis report estimated that 44 percent of the top 50 container carriers had weak or inadequate cyber security policies and processes,” indicated Huxley.

The US Coast Guard issued a draft Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NAVIC) titled ‘Guidelines for Addressing Cyber Risks at Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) Regulated Facilities’. The circular currently under review requires incorporation of personnel training, drills and exercises to test capabilities, security measures for access control, handling cargo, delivery of stores, procedures for interfacing with ships and security systems and equipment maintenance.

Additional national and regional initiatives, exemplified in the European Union by the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS Directive) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), are indicative of the development of regulatory expectations. While the latter does not directly address it, cyber protection is intrinsically at the core of data protection. Such initiatives, together with known vulnerabilities, highlight that cyber security is ever more pertinent for ports and terminals, as well as the broader supply chain community.

TT Club, jointly with UK P&I Club; which is also managed by Thomas Miller; and cyber security consultants NYA, has published a paper entitled ‘Risk Focus: Cyber – Considering Threats in the Maritime Supply Chain’. Introducing the paper in his Livorno presentation, “As an insurance mutual, TT Club has always been dedicated to minimising risk through its loss prevention efforts. By publishing ‘Risk Focus: Cyber’ we hope to generate more awareness of the risks to help combat the situation. Ultimately, the main threat continues to derive from human error – downloading malicious content, opening an unsecured web browser or falling victim to social engineering attacks and phishing scams,” concluded Huxley.

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