As technology becomes more and more advanced and widespread so do the villains of the cyber world. Cyber threats are becoming more common an unfortunately, hackers have made their way to the marine industry, setting eyes on high-end luxury yachts and super yachts. The U.S Coast Guard has issued two recent warnings over the last few months, announcing a problem with cybersecurity practices aboard commercial vessels. The first announcement warned about an ongoing wave of email spear-phishing that spread malware to vessels.
The second warning came just this week in which a cybersecurity incident impacted a vessel on an international voyage. The incident reported that the ship was experiencing a cyber attack on their shipboard network. The incident was further investigated and although the attack did affect the onboard computer system, the vessel control system was not impacted. But what was found was the lack of cybersecurity measures in place essentially putting the vessel at risk for cyber attacks. With engines that are controlled by mouse clicks and growing reliance on electronic charting and navigation systems, protecting these systems with proper cybersecurity measures is essential.
Moving from commercial vessels to luxury yachts, according to an article from Power and Motoryacht, a few years back at an international yacht investor conference, a hacker was hired to crack a network to evaluate security systems. It only took 30 minutes to hack into a yacht’s myriad digital networks. Including satcoms, navigation data and the personal information of every guest who signed into the Wi-Fi network.
In this day and age, people have multiple devices they use on the daily including cell phones, laptops, tablets, and more. Not to mention, those devices used by each guest aboard your yacht. With this many connected devices, it could put you and your guests at jeopardy for cyber network hacks. If you are like many yacht owners, you conduct business while onboard too. Which means your personal data, email, photos, videos, and bank account details could end up in the wrong hands. Luckily, there are steps and security precautions to take to help prevent cyber network hacks from happening on your yachts WIFI network.
One of the most important rules to remember when it comes to your yachts WIFI network is to never use your vessels name as part of your credentials. Many people, for ease of remembrance, use their vessels name as either the network name or password. This makes it remarkably easy for a hacker to crack the code and gain access to your network. When it comes to your yachts WIFI network or password, use a variety of different types of characters to make it difficult for attackers to gain access. Also, creating network profiles for different users that require unique login credentials will help against breaches. You can also limit access to those users that will be using the network.
Another tip to protect your yachts WIFI network against cyber attacks is to use marina network services. Or use your phones network service when available. If you choose to use your vessels WIFI network, think about setting up a VPN (virtual private network). This offers the highest level of encryption.
For those that don’t know what web filtering is…have you ever been at work and tried to access a social media site (or any site you shouldn’t be on while at work) to find the page was blocked by an administrator? That’s what web filtering is. In other terms, a web filter is a hardware or software which regulates WIFI access to the internet. A web filter works by categorizing a website as accessible or non-accessible. This is determined by white and blacklisted websites. Along with a real-time algorithm to keep up to speed with the ever-expanding internet.
Many time cyber attacks or potential threats are initiated by someone on board downloading something or plugging into a USB that has been infected. You should always be wary of external media you are trying to download. Ensuring all devices onboard are secure and up to date on software programs is a good preventative against cyber attacks. Plus, installing a type of anti-virus software is also an important security measure against your yachts wi-fi network.
Taking these precautions while on board is meant to prevent hackers from accessing your yachts WIFI network. Of course, this doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It all comes down to the level of connectivity on board. Each device added to your yacht is another added exposure to a hacker. For more information on how to protect your yachts WIFI network, talk to your yacht broker or reach out to a reputable cybersecurity company that specializes in cyber security in the yachting industry.