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Meeting the cyber threat challenge in the maritime industry – protection beyond regulation

by Julian Clark, Global Senior Partner, Ince

Posted on: 12 March 2021

With cyber attacks becoming increasingly sophisticated by the day, the level of threat to the maritime sector is at an all-time high and cyber security needs to be viewed as one of the industry’s greatest challenges. However, given the increasing complexities and transformation within the shipping industry, many organisations are struggling to keep up with the challenge, or to fully appreciate the seriousness of the issue and the potential commercial, operational and reputational risks they face.

The increasing cyber threat has risen on the back of the maritime industry’s continued digitalisation, having increased by 400% since February 2020, and by 900% over the past three years for attacks on operational technology (OT). The threat is both tangible and very real, which led the IMO to develop new regulations (IMO 2021), effective from 1st January 2021, to ensure that systems and management for handling cyber security risks are incorporated into vessels’ SMS from the date of the next annual audit of the SMS. However, there is a concern that while the new regulation is progress, it is not sufficient to fully protect organisations; essentially a ‘level one solution to a level four threat’.

The lack of adequate protection is particularly prevalent in relation to OT cyber attacks, where just 42% of organisations protect their vessels from this kind of cyber threat. Additionally, an alarming 92% of the estimated costs arising from a cyberattack are uninsured, and the access and limits of cover are often restricted, which has serious risk management implications for ship owners and managers.

Given the magnitude and complexity of the issue, it is only an integrated approach providing both advisory and action that can fully protect companies from the sophistication of cyber threats in today’s market. Our recent launch of an industry-first integrated legal advisory, consultancy and technology implementation cyber security solution (in conjunction with Mission Secure, one of the world’s leading Operational Technology (OT) cyber security companies)addresses this market need. As part of our wider InceMaritime offering, we can now provide legal advisory to ensure compliance, as well as the very latest military grade technology to protect on-shore and on-vessel OT networks.

At a time when the maritime industry is undergoing unprecedented change and managing new regulations, it is crucial that the shipping community comes together to solve the challenges facing the sector. At the core of this is delivering fully integrated and all-encompassing solutions that reduces complexities. This requires collaboration between industry partners with specialist expertise and the creation of transparent ecosystems to protect ship owners and operators, helping them to navigate the changing environment, stimulate growth and seize the opportunities that transformation always brings.

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