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Addressing the Risk of Maritime Cyber Attack

Thieves no longer need to compromise a physical location to execute predatory objectives and reap profits. Big data is the new gold, and unfortunately, opportunity seekers and accidents plague global enterprises. As technology advances, making more high-stakes, high-tech onshore and offshore ventures possible, those same enterprises become increasingly valuable and vulnerable targets. Whether internal or external, all a successful cyber threat requires is access. 

Value of Data Access

In February of this year, security expert Dell released its 2016 Security Annual Threat Report detailing 2015’s cyber attack trends and identifying continuing challenges for 2016. Data collected for analysis included “daily feeds from more than one million firewalls and tens of millions of connected endpoints, Dell SonicWALL network traffic and other industry sources.” 

Dell’s analysis identified four primary risks:

  • Increasing development and use of sophisticated exploit kits with anti-forensics mechanisms to conceal malware’s presence from security systems
  • Expanded development and use of transport layer security (TLS) and secure sockets layer (SSL) Internet encryption protocols that allow ciphering tunnels
  • A 73 percent increase in unique Android malware samples, particularly in ransomware and malware concealed within files typically exempt from security scans, making smartphones even more of a threat risk
  • A near doubling of malware attacks, from 4.2 billion in 2014 to 8.19 billion in 2015.

Patrick Sweeney, vice president of Product Management and Marketing at Dell Security, stated, "In today’s connected world, it’s vital to maintain 360 degrees of vigilance, from your own software and systems, to employees’ training and access, to everyone who comes in contact with your network and data."

The Three A’s to Control Access

The keys to controlling access inevitably narrow to three components — authentication, authorization and accountability:

  • Authentication requires that users provide credentials—typically passwords—that security protocols then compare to what is documented within system files. Default, overused, out-of-date and vendor-supplied passwords all put security at risk.
  • Authorization puts limits on what individual users have permission to access or change in any way and aids in compartmenting proprietary information. While some individuals may require input and extraction capabilities, others may need read-only access or none at all.
  • Accountability monitors and identifies responsibility for each user’s actions. Through authentication and authorization protocols, safeguards can track every activity or piece of data to a unique, registered user.

Cybersecurity breaches within the maritime and offshore oil and gas industry highlight how costly a single incident can be. January 2016’s article in The Maritime Reporter, "CyberSecurity in Shipping and Offshore Ops," details how hackers have compromised automatic identification, electronic chart display and information, global positioning and even information technology systems. One single incident reportedly cost World Fuel Services an estimated $18 million.

Sabotage, Espionage and Accidents

Viable threats are both external and internal, but best-practice security measures, such as those offered by Royce Hernandez of leading broadband satellite service provider Hughes during BlueTide’s 2015 Executive Advisory Council, can help:

  • Install and maintain firewall configurations as part of your secure network and systems.
  • Protect and encrypt sensitive and proprietary data, both stored and transmitted.
  • Regularly update and maintain antivirus and anti-malware management systems and programs.
  • Control both electronic and physical access to data through authentication, authorization and accountability safeguards.
  • Continually test and monitor network security systems and protocols.
  • Establish, maintain and internally publicize a corporate information security policy to deter internal compromises.

BlueTide Communications – Secure VSAT Services for Maritime Operations

In addition to our other VSAT services, BlueTide Communications offers SECaaS — Security as a Service. Our global network operating center provides real-time event monitoring, analytics and reporting on application traffic, bandwidth use, threats and suspicious activity, maximizing network security and efficiency. Through SECaaS, BlueTide Communications delivers visualization and control with comprehensive protection, monitoring and management of your network. To understand your network current level of risk, contact BlueTide Communications for your free cybersecurity assessment.


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