From MarineLink by Emil Muccin
The U.S. Executive Branch has declared that the cyber threat is one of
the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a
nation, and that America’s economic prosperity in the 21st century will
depend on effective cyber security.
Before the maritime industry sounds
the danger signal, it needs to monitor other industries and branches of
the government and take proactive preventative measures.
There is no
better place to prepare future and current mariners for these challenges
than in maritime simulators.
Cyber security refers to the technologies and processes designed to
protect computers, networks and data from unauthorized access,
vulnerabilities and attacks delivered via the Internet by cyber
With the advent of computers, network devices and
telecommunications that make transport of data via radio frequency
common place, it has opened a new world of vulnerabilities to hackers to
tap, steal, destroy or alter data.
This has led into a new area of
potential maritime threats that go well beyond physical piracy such as
the Maersk Alabama.
With the recent GPS spoofing of a yacht by students
at the University of Texas, the maritime sector has entered into a new
arena that must be addressed as Maritime Cyber Security.
The U.S., as a world leader and major target for terrorism in early
2013, through the Executive branch signed an Executive Order (EO) 13636
to Improve Critical Infrastructure (CI) cyber security and Presidential
Policy Directive 21 – Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience
It established an All Hazards approach to critical
infrastructure security and resilience.
The cyber security EO
establishes a requirement for federal agencies to collaborate with their
respective industry sectors to identify Critical Infrastructure that
can be impacted by cyber activity.
This initial foray by the federal government has led other departments
and agencies to take initial steps to address the growing issues with
The U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration (MARAD)
being one of those proactive organizations has recently teamed with the
Ship Operations Cooperative Program (SOCP) to cooperatively develop
Information Systems Security Awareness Computer-Based Training (CBT) on
cyber threats in the maritime environment.
This is a first for the U.S.
maritime community to recognize and take action to assist vessel owners
and operators with training U.S. mariners on best practices to reduce
the risks and vulnerability associated with information systems and
Newly developed cyber training will provide mariners with a
comprehensive overview of the range of threats that information systems
and devices are subject to, and the practices recommended to minimize
Best practices that are addressed in the training
include a wide range of topics, from maintaining security for networks,
to personal use of workplace computers, good password practices, and
issues concerning the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter.
This training also addresses issues for mariners working aboard vessels,
such as specific log-in policies and rules surrounding working with
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through the United States Coast
), has also taken to task these growing threats and has
determined that American ports, terminals, refineries, vessels and
support industries are vital to the safekeeping of the nation’s
infrastructure, security and our economy.
In short, there are as many potential avenues for cyber damage in the
maritime sector as there are cyber systems.
While only some cyber-attack
scenarios in the maritime sector could credibly lead to a
Transportation Security Incident, we must identify and prioritize those
risks, take this threat seriously, and work together to improve
Security and Survival at Sea
Will the next hacker chess match take place on the high seas
with oil tankers, container ships and other specialized vessels that
transport approximately 90 percent of the goods moved around the world?
Many devices are connected online which makes them more vulnerable to
As the maritime and offshore energy industries connect ships and
oil rigs to computer networks, they expose considerable weaknesses that
hackers can exploit.
For example, it was discovered that pirates off
the coast of Somalia and other key piracy areas hand pick their shipping
targets by tracking online the navigation track of the vessel through
AIS, ECDIS and radar.
In the oil industry, hackers have committed much
turmoil including the tilting of an oil rig, causing it to be shut down,
as well as the penetration of the networked computing systems on
another rig with malware that took trained personnel almost three weeks
Other events have included smugglers hacking into networked
systems to be able to locate containers with drug contraband and cleanly
confiscate the drugs without being detected.
They even went so far as
attempting to delete the data for the shipment.
While data on the extent
of the maritime industry’s exposure to cyber-crime is hard to come by, a
study of the related energy sector by insurance companies recently
indicates that much of it maybe insurable.
As the energy and oil industry has been targeted for some time,
statistics are available that indicate this is already have a billion
dollar impact on the world economy.
In the maritime industry, the number
of known incidents appears to be low due to either the companies being
unaware of the cyber-attacks or because of the desire to keep such news
from reaching the press with potential detrimental business impact to
There are few documented reports that hackers have compromised maritime
But scientists indicate they have determined areas in
three key systems that mariners use to navigate: GPS, Automatic
Identification System (AIS), and the system for viewing digital nautical
charts Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS).
Increasingly, the maritime domain and energy sector has turned to
technology to improve production, cost and reduce delivery schedules.
These technological changes have opened the door to emerging threats and
vulnerabilities as equipment have become accessible to outside
As vessels continue to increase in size, the crewing continues to
decrease, with the paramount shift in vessel operations, ship owners and
yards have increasingly added more automation and remote monitoring
systems to vessels.
This has led to a dilemma, as more systems and
devices on vessels might enhance productivity and safety on one hand,
but on the other it presents more systems for hackers to compromise and
It is fairly well-known that a significant proportion of
computing and network devices are connected to the internet using serial
ports with poor security.
Devices range from simple traffic items such
as stop light which have been proven that they can be controlled
remotely by hackers, to complex items for the oil and gas industry that
monitor and control oil rigs.
It has been reported that some ships switch off their AIS systems when
passing through waters where pirates are known to operate, or fake the
data to make it seem they’re somewhere else.
Some shipping companies are
now taking cyber risks as true credible threats and taking necessary
measures to beef up network and telecommunications security.
studies of U.S. ports have determined that very few have conducted cyber
assessments and even fewer have developed a response plan.
federal money has been allocated to the maritime industry for cyber
security projects or training.
This lack of cyber security preparation by U.S. ports actually carries
over to the shipping companies where it has been discovered that most
have substantial security issues.
However the good point is that the
maritime industry has had limited compromising of its computing and
This may be tied to the factor that they have not been
a high priority and have not been on the radar screen of hackers.
What should concern many in the maritime industry is that the main ship
navigation systems including GPS, AIS and ECDIS receive data via radio
frequency transmission at sea and as such are extremely vulnerable to
AIS and ECDIS are now mandatory on larger commercial and
passenger vessels per the recent IMO 2010 Manila Amendments.
requirement has increased the need for shipping companies to come with
security measures and protocols to protect these devices from intrusion
by outside sources.
It has also been known for some time that ECDIS systems and the required
software update downloads can be compromised by hackers with severe
This came to light last year with the grounding of a
U.S. naval vessel in the Pacific Ocean where it was reported that the
ECDIS charts were incorrect and may have had an impact on the accident.
related discovery has been the widespread abuse of AIS by the maritime
Many ships deliberately transmit incorrect AIS position data
attributable to security reasons in certain parts of the world including
off the coast of Somalia, in the Caribbean smugglers do it to avoid
tracking and arrest by law enforcement and even fishermen do it for
financial gain by fishing in areas that are not permitted.
importance is the need for the maritime community to understand the
principles of information systems and cyber security and it how it
applies to on-board equipment before they can implement changes and
conduct training so that personnel are aware and can act accordingly.
Several areas that the maritime industry will need to come to speed on
are the following:
There are many recent stories portending to GPS spoofing, including the
June 2013 project at the University of Texas where they employed GPS
spoofing as they hacked and manipulated the software to disorient the
navigation system on a luxury yacht.
Upon cloaking the device and
transmitting the false signal, the yacht changed course abruptly when it
received the false signal.
Although this occurred because a system
linked to the ECDIS handled the steering and not a helmsman, it still
This opened up a new dilemma for the world for navigation
on how to verify the accuracy and correctness of GPS signals.
GPS has vulnerabilities that pose potential risks.
In 2008 in response
to presidential direction the U.S. government announced that they would
establish a nationwide resilient terrestrial based system to augment
GPS, and it would be named eLoran.
This new system would build upon and
modernize the old Loran-C system, while being less expensive to operate
and be much more precise.
The U.S. is not alone in recognizing GPS
vulnerabilities; numerous other countries including most of Europe,
India, Russia and China have installed or will install eLoran systems.
Unfortunately the US government via the Department of Homeland Security
had planned on dismantling the remains of the old LORAN-C infrastructure
even though it is feasible to use it for the new eLoran.
The good news
is that there are currently plans in place to resurrect and enhance the
old system and turn it into a state of the art electronic terrestrial
based system that will complement and backup GPS.$
Buoy in port of Baltimore
Photo credit: Darren Wright
It was recently reported that prominent aids to navigation on the
approach and within San Francisco harbor have now been added into the
electronic aid to navigation (eATON) system.
San Francisco has become
the Beta port in the U.S. as it is the first one to begin using this
This is not a costly process to implement as it does not require the
U.S. Coast Guard to install electronic transmitters on the aids to
Due to the fact that the aids to navigation are located in
fixed positions in the ocean or on land or fixtures such as the Golden
Gate Bridge, they have their own electronic identification assigned to
them which is added into the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
With the Golden Gate Bridge the center span is marked by a RACON, and
the bridge towers are marked by eATON digital markers.
This system in the San Francisco area is also being used in conjunction
with reporting points in the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) including
the San Francisco “SF” buoy that serves as the embarkation point for the
It has been reported by the USCG that eATONs will not replace the actual
physical navigation aids but will supplement the existing technology as
well as add a virtual layer of aids to navigation in areas that
previously were physically impossible to do or impractical in nature.
This now allows the USCG to place an eATON in the TSS where it was too
deep before to do as well as mark a bridge tower that was practically
needed most in reduced visibility not in day light.
This technology eventually will allow the USCG to install transmitters
on buoys so that the prudent mariner will be able to track where the
buoy actually is as opposed to where it should be per a nautical chart.
In a conflicting statement it was also recently reported that certain
aids to navigation will be removed off the coast of California.
decision was tied to the presumption that all vessels are equipped with
Electronics Chart Display and Identification System (ECDIS) which has
been required by the IMO 2010 Manila Amendments to be installed on most
vessels (tied to class and size) over a six year period starting in
This could lead to disastrous consequences because a significant segment
of the maritime industry including towing, fishing and recreational are
not required to be ECDIS equipped.
Additionally even for the blue
water international commercial fleet reliance on ECDIS and GPS alone can
be dangerous especially in light of the recent GPS spoofing
Prudence and situational awareness dictates that the
professional mariner needs to rely on visual aids to navigation within
sight of land.
Additionally what happens when you have an electronics
failure and loose an ECDIS or both of them on a commercial vessel?
Plenty of phish in the sea
It is thought that ECDIS has some underlying software security
vulnerabilities that could lead to disastrous results for ships at sea.
The basis of ECDIS is a navigation based charting system that use a
computing system to digitally display nautical charts along with the
exact location and track of own ship.
This is a dramatic alternative
and improvement to paper charts and the current system of hand plotting
ECDIS’s are installed on the bridge of a vessel and larger
vessels are required to have two of them, one as a backup.
are properly used with an ENC chart they can take the place of paper
This is an increasing trend in the maritime industry.
Where the problems arise is not when the ECDIS’s are in standalone mode
but when they are networked together and when data is downloaded via an
external source, whether through a USB port via a memory stick or via
Through the recently released IMO 2010 Manila Amendments
regulations were implemented that now requires EDCIS to be installed on
all commercial vessels of a certain size.
This will slowly eliminate
the reliance on paper charts and take the maritime industry on a journey
into the electronic world where the next evolution will be the use of
portable smart devices by navigators.
Safe guards need to be put in
place for ECDIS data updates as well as external security breaches when
they are operated in a networked setting.
When AIS is operated as intended it is a useful navigational aid that
can be instrumental in collision avoidance.
As has been published due
to the configuration of the system much of the transmitted data can be
manipulated or distorted.
This has been confirmed recently by several
sources including the Israeli’s.
They have noted that vessels
transmitting AIS spurious signals were nowhere near their actual
location and on other occasions they also had phantom ships appear that
could not be found.
This system along with GPS and the recent spoofing
episode needs to be enhanced to include some type of signal
authentication process so that erroneous signals will not be displayed.
Smart ships are on the horizon and it has been predicted between 2020
and 2030 that we will see such a ship going about its normal business at
sea without a crew and being totally monitored from shore.
are already constructing vessels that are fully sensored so that they
can be monitored after it is delivered and while it is at sea for
maintenance and servicing purposes.
These vessels can take two forms
either autonomous or unmanned.
Autonomous is defined as a vessel
primarily guided by automated on-board decision systems but controlled
by a remote operator in a shore based control facility.
Unmanned is one
step beyond autonomous and is totally controlled from a shore based
Key features would be the standard maritime policy of
having redundant systems and emergency backups on board.
this new technology take us in the maritime simulation world?
as is done with USAF we will have ship drone training and
This could tie into the scenario with a fully integrated
navigation suite of GPS, eLORAN, EATON and a digital visual sensor
system that can be fully controlled and monitored 24/7/365.
Maritime simulation is important as it imitates the operation of a
real-world vessel in a safe environment.
The act of simulating cyber
threats and scenarios will allow us to focus on these new cases of
spoofing and jamming through the mariner’s heavy reliance on Radio
Frequency (RF) transmissions that can potentially be comprised.
Simulation can be used to show the eventual real effects of alternative
conditions and courses of action on the vessel.
Simulation is of utmost
importance specifically where we need to interact in congested
waterways, narrow channels, dense traffic and many other restrictions
including dangerous cargoes.
What simulation will allow us to do is
introduce many of these potential cyber threats in a real life
environment and let the mariner interact with the exercise and respond
in real time.
In developing the next wave of maritime education it is a
logical evolution to go beyond Vessel Security Officer (VSO) and create a
new role for a Vessel Cyber Security Officer (VCSO) in a Maritime Cyber
Security (MCS) program.
This position could be an extension of the VSO
or a new certification.
In either direction it is necessary to have
crew members with these skill sets who can act as the responsible
officer(s) on each ship.
As the go to personnel, they would be
responsible for all levels and details of cyber security and defense.
Through the recently released STCW 2010 Amendments IMO has already
proactively moved forward with the introduction of the Electro Technical
Officer (ETO) and an Electro Technical Rating (ETR).
How does the industry move forward and get to that logical level of
training and preparedness?
First it needs to review existing maritime
simulation to determine the equipment and systems we are using.
step is determine how they are integrated, as well as built-in security
From this we can start the journey on determining how cyber
threats could attack, destroy or disable the equipment … or in the worst
case scenario … take command of it.
In the end it is through the
awareness training and education that mariners will be able to thwart
Another source of mariner awareness and training must be the use of the
internet and the download of potentially corrupt data through viruses,
worms, phishing, spoofing and hacking.
This may happen due to improper
or lack of training or some circumstances an oversight due to fatigue
but nevertheless it must be avoided.
A similar path applies to the use
of vessel email and the threat of receiving spear phishing emails
purported from reliable sources with click-able links to websites that
are fraudulent and will take control of your computer back door or
install a virus.
In summary as we move forward we need to incorporate in the syllabi of
all maritime simulation courses the basics of Maritime Cyber Security
(MCS) as it is and ever present threat that will not go away.
only through diligence and proper training and awareness that seagoing
mariners will be prepared and ready to take appropriate actions when