Sunderland cyber security support to protect seafarers

Tackling cyber crime in the maritime industry

Published on 21 November 2018

A new mobile training app is helping seafarers to protect themselves from cyber criminals looking to infiltrate the maritime industry’s IT infrastructure.

The University of Sunderland alongside Stapleton International and the Marine Learning Alliance, helped support the design of Fleet Secure Cyber Awareness - a training app for mobile devices. This enables seafarers to educate themselves on the tactics that cyber criminals use and prevent threats from escalating into full-blown cyber-attacks.

The training app is just one of two new maritime cyber security services, launched by Inmarsat, a global satellite telecommunications company, which continues to develop solutions that combat the ever-increasing cyber threats faced by ship owners and ship managers.

Inmarsat’s second service, Fleet Secure Endpoint, has been developed to protect desktop computers and others systems connected to a vessel’s network. It’s been developed to remove infections and thwart hackers before damage occurs to on-board endpoints and connected systems. The service is based on industry leading technology from ESET, a world leader in digital security, and powered by Port-IT.  

Explaining how the two services will operate, Peter Broadhurst, Senior Vice President of Safety and Security for Inmarsat Maritime said: “It is a priority for every fleet operator and ship manager – shore-side and at sea – to ensure their systems are properly protected. As this enhancement to Fleet Secure demonstrates, Inmarsat is constantly monitoring the ever changing cyber security landscape and devising new tools and approaches for addressing potential problems; ensuring that ships and their crew remain safe –physically and virtually.”

Addressing the human element, he says is essential to maintaining a strong security position, Mr Broadhurst added: “Many attempts to gain unauthorised access to IT infrastructure require some sort of activation by an end-user in order to infect a system and cause further damage. These attacks are often heavily disguised so as to trick and manipulate end-users into unwittingly granting permission.

“However, there are nearly always tell-tale signs that, if spotted in time, would prevent escalation. Crew education is therefore an indispensable component in realising a well-rounded security strategy and the reason behind teaming up with Stapleton International and Marine Learning Alliance to launch our Fleet Secure Cyber Awareness module.”

Available through Google Play and Apple’s App Store, the app can be downloaded and installed on seafarers’ smartphones or tablet devices before they join a ship

The app comprises three core modules that enlighten seafarers to digital threats from different perspectives. The first educates on cyber threats that involve taking advantage of personal information; the second focuses on cyber threats that exploit weaknesses in IT devices; while the third covers the physical and human dimension of more sophisticated cyber-attacks. In addition to the detailed training materials, the app includes a competency test to help seafarers consolidate and assess their understanding of the issue. On successful completion of the test seafarers will be eligible for CPD credits from IMarEST and a University certificate of completion.

Professor Alastair Irons is the Academic Dean and a Professor of Computer Science within the Facultyof Technology, said: “Education is a key aspect in creating a cyber secure UK and addressing the cyber skills gap. This app will no doubt enable seafarers to educate themselves on the tactics that cyber criminals might employ to cause disruption.

“Supporting projects such as this, with our external partners, provides opportunities to utilise the expertise in our Faculty of Computer Science, share knowledge which feeds back into our own academic programmes and ensures a flow of highly skilled digital graduates for business and industry.”