William Cho



Could Cyber Attacks Spell Doom for the Maritime Industry?

Do you know how truly massive the global maritime industry is? Billions of tons of vital goods like food, medicine, and oil are shipped around the world every year, and any interference with these ships can cause massive economic impacts. We saw these economic impacts earlier this year when a shipping vessel lodged itself in the Suez Canal, blocking the passage of other vessels. This blockage cost the world nearly $10 billion in trade each day it was stuck.

Needless to say, the maritime industry is vital, and the latest concern among experts is cybersecurity. You’re probably aware of the general importance of cybersecurity. You might have some well-known programs installed on the very device you’re reading this article on, but you may not be aware of just how important cybersecurity is in the maritime industry.

The world’s reliance on the maritime industry is greater than ever. We see the shipping prices and demand going up and companies are riding this change to expand, buying new vessels, upgrading systems, and improving business processes,” said Alon Ayalon, the vice president of R&D at Cydome, a maritime cybersecurity company, in a recent interview.

As the industry grew, it needed to rely much more heavily on technology to follow COVID-19 guidelines. As is the case in any industry, the more technology used, the greater the opportunity for cyberattacks. It’s estimated that attempted cyberattacks on maritime vessels increased by 400% in the first few months of the pandemic.

Some of the problem lies in the fact that the tech these vessels often rely on is ancient. “We see systems that are brand new and high-tech, alongside the 1980s fax next to it,” said Alon. Most security systems for the maritime industry don’t cover these complicated systems that rely on old technology. Since these vessels carry such important cargo, significant cyberattacks could easily cause millions, even billions of dollars in economic damage, should they hold up the trade of these goods. That’s what Cydome is trying to change.

Cydome is a unique force in the maritime industry, as its solutions are developed specifically for the complex systems on vessels and fleets. They recently won the award for Cutting Edge Cybersecurity Startup of the Year at the annual Global InfoSec Awards. “We’re thrilled to receive one of the most prestigious and coveted cybersecurity awards in the world from Cyber Defense Magazine. We knew the competition would be tough, and with top judges who are leading InfoSec experts from around the world, we couldn’t be more pleased,” said Nir Ayalon, the CEO of Cydome.

“When you install this solution, the solution starts scanning the assets on board and starts learning about the different endpoints, the different relationship between the endpoints, and the different communication methods that this vessel uses,” said Nir Ayalon. Their unique system analyzes the systems that a ship uses, finds where protection is needed and fills the cracks leaving no blind spots.

The maritime industry, of course, isn’t just individual vessels. There are fleets made up of vessels numbering in the hundreds, there are ports, and there are offshore facilities like oil rigs. The most important part of any cybersecurity solution in the maritime industry is adaptability and comprehensiveness. A single-blind spot in any of these facets of the industry could be exploited to cause massive economic losses.

As is the case for every piece of new technology, an important part of adaptability is simplicity. Most maritime workers aren’t cyber professionals so cybersecurity solutions need to be simple to set up, another aspect that the Cydome team focused on while developing their system. “We are trying to make our solution as autonomous as possible. So it won’t disrupt the current operations of the company. So we can take that concern off them and extend a full coverage,” said Alon.

Their solution is simple to set up, they didn’t need to visit vessels in person to get it up and running. Because the pandemic made in-person visits to these ships impossible, they simply sent the product to the ship in a box, and the people working on the vessel could get it up and operational with no hassle.

Cydome, originating in Israel, recently expanded to Singapore, one of the most vital hubs for trade and shipping in Asia. Making those who run businesses and organizations in the industry aware of the critical role that cybersecurity plays in their operations is a vital step in fully protecting against cyberattacks that could theoretically bring down our global trade infrastructure.

Awareness of the importance of cybersecurity has only increased recently, also as a result of President Biden’s recent executive order regarding cybersecurity. There has been a widespread awakening about how dangerous cyberattacks can be, not just on personal technology, but on a wider scale, how it can affect the global economy by targeting the public sector, the private sector, and the maritime industry.