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SDF 2020: 'Superyacht Industry is Falling Behind on Cyber Security'

4 February 2020• Written by Miranda Blazeby

The superyacht industry is ill prepared in the fight against cyber crime and has fallen behind other industries, a panel of security experts has said.

Speaking at BOAT International's Superyacht Design Festival, a panel of experts warned the industry that it must do more to prepare against cyber threats which are “not going to go away.”

The panel spoke as new IMO security regulations are set to come into force on January 1, 2021. These regulations will state that owners must provision for cyber security on board.

Co-founder and chief data officer at CSS Platinum, Mike Wills, warned that the threat of cyber-crime is very real, claiming that there are “hugely organised criminal gangs wanting to target superyachts”.

He warned that sophisticated attacks could even hijack the propulsion and steering systems on board.

Head of partnerships at Darktrace, Francesca Bowen, agreed, citing a number of “weird and wonderful” cyber attacks that have breached devices such as smart fish tanks and coffee machines.

Mark Oakton, cybersecurity consultant at 360 Maritime Security Alliance, warned that cyber attacks have become multi-faceted and are now targeting yachts with “blended” means.

“If they are attacking you with a cyber element, there will be a cyber element, but it won’t be a cyber-only attack,” he said.

He said this was especially dangerous for an industry that considers cyber crime an “afterthought”.

“The level of protection on yachts compared to other environments is very low,” he said. He added that this is especially dangerous in an industry populated with ultra-high net worth individuals.

“The worst impact is not what actually happens in the attack, it’s the ongoing brand and reputation damage,” he said.

Wills agreed that the industry needs to do more and called on designers and builders to implement cyber security into yachts right from the concept stage.

“This isn’t something that needs to be considered for a one-time fix, it’s a forever-more problem that we need to address,” he said.

“That needs to be taken into account in the designing and building of superyachts – from the concept stage through the build and manufacture stages.”