Main cyber-threat to shipping is commercial: North P&I


There are many alarmist scenarios for cyber threats against shipping such as remotely taking control of vessels, but North P&I believes the main threat at present is commercially from the likes of ransomware attacks.

The P&I Club gives free advice to members on what it terms cyber-resilience, as no-one can be totally secure, and offers a hefty discount on the Hudson Analytix Cyber risk assessment tool.

"The real risk of cyber-threat at the moment is more commercial, manipulating cargo documents, and ransomware is the obvious threat. I think the threat of taking over vessels, although it does exist, is a lot further down the line and more extreme," Alvin Forster, deputy director (loss prevention) for North P&I, tells Seatrade Maritime News.

Forster believes the NotPetya attack on Maersk Line last year was a big eye-opener to many in the industry that made them sit up and pay attention to the cyber threat to their business.

Having raised awareness to members by speaking and seminars and issuing advisories North P&I stresses taking practical measures to a company's systems. "We advocate the simple measures you can take - just the simple process of not getting a memory sticking it straight into computers," he explains.

"We're just trying to get shipowners in the process of thinking, let's assess the risk, what can we do to prevent it and if it does go horribly wrong what systems do we have in place to put it right."

This where the tie-up with Hudson Analytix came in - having raised awareness of the issue with members it wanted them to take action rather than just continuing to talk about the potential threat.

"Rather than shipowners having to spend a fortune for expensive consultants to come into the company this is a self-assessment tool. You are able to benchmark yourself and the progress you are making."

With the greater connectivity of ship systems the possible entry points for a threat are also growing.

"With the bridge equipment it's that constantly being connected that's changed. With the advent of the internet of things there is that potential to opening the door to additional threats whereas in the past on older tonnage it was a bit more standalone," Forster says.

On the insurance front while P&I cover does include cyber-attacks some hull and machinery insurance cover has a clause that excludes cyber risks so Forster says they encourage owners to check this. Owners can buy gap insurance if cyber is not covered.​

Read more: