Cybersecurity Catch-22

Jan 25, 2022 by Corey Ranslem

Rapidly evolving technologies will better protect onboard systems — while also enhancing hackers’ tools to breach them.

Trying to predict what is going to happen with technology and the future is always risky. Technological advancements are happening rapidly, and change is going to be the new normal for the foreseeable future. Major advances in cybersecurity have been made in the past few years, however hackers are also using these advances in technology to their advantage. A day doesn’t go by that you don’t hear about a major organization or government agency succumbing to an attack and loss of data. 

The future of cybersecurity is interesting when you look at some of the advances in technology and computing — and specifically, communications technology in the maritime industry. Advances in satellite communications are going to be a big catalyst for improving cybersecurity for large yachts. Currently, many cybersecurity tools are constrained by the bandwidth of satellite communications. Most cybersecurity companies have solutions that work great for land-based companies, but don’t work on board large yachts because of bandwidth constraints. In fact, several operations on board the large yacht will improve with increased bandwidth, not just cybersecurity capabilities.

Technology advances also will help improve cybersecurity. As machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence improve, so will the capabilities of detection of threats. This technology has a long way to go, but incremental advances will make big differences in cyber defense. As these technologies improve, it will be much easier to deploy them to vessel networks to better seek out active threats on the vessel’s IT and OT networks. Major technological advances are already happening in the protection of OT systems, which can be difficult to protect and sometimes provide easy access for hackers. Cybersecurity experts see the potential of deploying “cyber-bots” into the internet to seek out and eliminate cyber threats. 

Finally, the biggest advances will take place with the widespread use and introduction of quantum computing technology. We are still years out from the day-to-day use of quantum computers, but their use will completely change the landscape — not just of cybersecurity, but of how we operate in our day-to-day lives. Quantum computing will potentially help reduce the human input of system protection. 

It’s important to remember, however, that with all these advances in cybersecurity, there will be equal advances in the tools hackers use to gain access. Crew training is going to continue to be a crucial part of our cybersecurity defenses.

Corey Ranslem is CEO of International Maritime Security Associates (imsa.global) and Triton’s technology editor. He has more than 24 years of combined Coast Guard and maritime industry  experience.

Topics: