New tool speeds distribution of urgent security patches

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 02 April 2020

ShipInsight


A new solution from UK-based communication specialists GTMaritime is claimed to counter a major cyber security weakness of ships at sea today by deploying critical software and security patches to protect shipboard systems before threats emerge. GTDeploy provides a software deployment platform to deliver security updates to ships wherever they are in the world ‘in the background’ without requiring intervention by IT staff or distracting crew.

Hackers actively exploit the lack of urgency given by organisations to updating software, even though software patch management can be as vital to cyber-risk management as overtly defensive measures such as email filtering, network segregation and unified threat management. GTDeploy has been designed to make patch management integral to the maritime IT environment. The tool supports automatic updating – as seen on smartphones – for pushing out software fixes as soon as a newer version becomes available. It can add, refresh or uninstall security updates, patches or entire applications and gives fleet IT managers the flexibility to prioritise updates based on urgency and chose when and/or where they take place.

GTMaritime Head of Operations, Jamie Jones, said, “Software updates get pushed down the list of priorities for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there are simply more immediate problems that need dealing with but often this is to do with pressure on budgets: the cost of sending someone out to a vessel may be hard to justify. GTDeploy removes that pressure.”

Whether updates are better performed when a vessel is under way or postponed until reaching port, GTDeploy allows applications to be managed through an intuitive drag-and-drop dashboard interface. Its use saves ship operators time and money by reducing the logistical burden of either manually updating every PC remotely or sending IT personnel or local agents to visit ships in person.

The system is airtime agnostic, which means it will function regardless of the type and capability of satellite communications set up on a ship. This is particularly relevant for mixed or managed fleets, where ships have different hardware and varying configurations. If an application needs additional library files, for example, these are fetched automatically and included in the transmission package.

“GTDeploy helps vessel owners cope with the proliferation of software onboard as the industry embraces digitalisation and transitions to data-centric operating practices. As the number of onboard systems multiply and complexity grows, so does the urgency and resources needed to maintain them,” said Jones. “It paves the way for a more pro-active approach to managing onboard software, he added. With cyber-security due to come under the scope of Safety Management System of the ISM Code from next January, vessel operators must demonstrate that robust and systematic processes are in place to address vulnerabilities and reduce exposure to malicious code.

GTDeploy is built on FastNet, a data connectivity platform developed by GTMaritime to manage ship/shore data flow intelligently as shipping companies embrace and transition to a more digital way of working. It comprises a package of services for encrypting, compressing and prioritising data communications to make best use of the satellite link and available bandwidth.

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