Think before buying

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

08 June 2016


With Posidonia in full swing and SMM just around the corner, shipowners and operators will be checking out the latest offerings in equipment and services. Automation, Connectivity, Big data and Cyber security are high on the list of discussion topics at the moment. But while there may be some benefits from the three former, it is the last that should be on potential buyers’ minds when considering the merits of different products. The developers of software systems will be pitching their products and highlighting the efficiency gains and fuel savings that can be obtained but a recent article by the BBC highlighted the downside of modern technology. Apparently there are now more than 120 separate families of ransomware and some researchers have seen a 3,500% increase in the criminal use of net infrastructure that helps run ransomware campaigns. And importantly, it seems that the criminals that make use of ransomware are finding it easy to circumvent many of the most trusted anti-virus products available. So far shipping seems to have escaped the attention of cyber criminals but that is a situation cannot be relied upon as lasting for ever. Older ships are less likely to be affected than newer vessels with high levels of automation and onboard networks. Ships at sea and most of the smaller shipping companies do not have and cannot afford huge IT departments with experts able to fix problems that might occur so what can be done to protect against potential disasters. Maybe asking some pertinent questions about systems and equipment beyond basic cost might be a good idea. For example is the operating system known to have weaknesses? What level of support can be expected from the supplier in the event of cyber attack? What level of redundancy can be available on board and what third party assistance can be sourced?