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The importance of cyber security for cargo vessels

In today's world, cyber security has become of great importance for all sorts of industries. The shipping industry is no exception.

Digital and internet technologies have made communicating with and transmitting information to and from cargo vessels out at sea easier than ever for shipping companies. Unfortunately, these technologies can also create hacking vulnerabilities for vessels, as the same channels used for legitimate communication/information-sharing purposes could become channels through which hackers could reach out across the waters and try to get access to a vessel's digital systems.

Another reason cyber security is so important in the shipping industry is the increased use of digital systems on cargo vessels. Digital systems can be connected to all different sorts of vessel functions, like the monitoring and controlling of different shipboard systems. Thus, the range of things a hacker could potentially take control of aboard a ship if they successfully made it into a ship's digital systems could be quite wide.

Given this, a ship being hacked could have some incredibly major consequences. For one, it could endanger crew safety. One of the important aspects of keeping a vessel a safe work environment is ensuring all vessel systems remain properly controlled. Losing control of important vessel systems to a hacker could potentially up the chances of a vessel getting into an accident or an accident occurring aboard the vessel. Maritime accidents can leave workers severely hurt.

Thus, shipping companies taking proper cyber security steps is not only important for data security, but also for things like worker safety. Thus, one would hope cyber security would be something all shipping companies would be paying proper attention to.

Recently, a group of shipping industry associations put out some cyber security guidelines for shipping companies. The guidelines are aimed at giving shipping companies information on potential cyber security vulnerabilities and what can be done to prevent cyber attacks. It is planned that these guidelines will be regularly updated.

Do you think these guidelines will have any impacts on cyber security in the shipping industry? How vigilant do you think shipping companies currently are when it comes to cyber security? In your opinion, are their currently any major shortcomings in the shipping industry when it comes to cyber security?

Source: The Maritime Executive, "Shipping Industry's Own Cyber Security Guidelines Released," Jan. 4, 2016

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