A recent article in the world press as far reaching as UKs the Guardian, and the South African Newspaper the Times, have warned billionaire yacht owners that they are increasingly the targets of sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals.
It is urgent that every yacht owner takes the threat of cybercrime seriously.
Yacht owners are by their very nature high net worth individuals, and this makes them a natural target to hackers and cybercriminals. At a recent cybercrime workshop held at an exclusive private yacht club in London, a data crime expert with Blackberry demonstrated for yacht owners how easily criminal gangs could exploit lax data security on superyachts to steal their owners’ financial information, private photos – and even force the yacht off course, and have it held for ransom.
Just as you no doubt have planned well, to physically protect your yacht, passengers and crew, it is equally important that you also develop and implement a cybersecurity strategy. Your yacht is highly dependent on digital equipment and networks. These systems can be hacked, putting your vessel and passengers at risk.
To prove this point, in 2013 a group of marine security professionals, demonstrated how easily they could take over the navigation system of a superyacht underway in the Mediterranean Sea by “spoofing” its GPS guidance signal. The captain and crew had no idea what was going on, as control of the vessel was taken from right under their noses!
Data Breaches and Malware
It is not only compromising your yacht’s operational systems that you need to worry about. There can be all sorts of sensitive data on board your yacht’s computers that cyber-crooks would just love to get their hands on. Many, if not all yacht owners, do personal and professional business while onboard, and that kind of data is ripe for the picking by hackers!
In recent years, several yacht owners have reported incidents of “ransomware” attacks. Ransomware is a kind of cyber-attack where infected software, or “malware,” takes over your ability to access and operate your computer, or your boat’s computer systems, until you pay a “ransom,” by paying for a service to remove the damaging malware.
The recent WannaCry virus was a large-scale ransomware attack, and according to most accounts, the massive cyberattack that was discovered on May 12th, hit as many as 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries.
The most common form of ransomware shows up as a fake virus infection. The more you click on things on this screen, the more you lock-up your computer system. Other forms look even scarier, as they pop-up with what look to be official notifications from the FBI or other government agency alerting you that your data has been breached, or that you have violated some law, and must pay a fine to get your computer unlocked.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Yacht from Cybercrime?
Ransomware type attacks can be prevented much the same way as most malware attacks. Keep a good up-to-date antivirus on all on-board computers. Be aware of any computers that your guests tie into your yacht’s Wi-Fi system. Once a guest is on your network, any vulnerabilities in his or her computer, opens a door to your entire onboard network. Instruct all computer users onboard not to open any unknown or suspicious looking emails.
Protecting the onboard systems from hackers and data breaches is a bit more complex, and probably will require some professional IT advice to make sure you have proper countermeasures in place. However some basic steps you can take include:
- Making sure crew and guests only have access to the systems that are necessary.
- Give crew members individual passwords to the onboard systems, so you can always be sure who accessed the system and when.
- Be sure any and all “sensitive data” is stored only on the vessel’s hard drives and not on the network.
- Block websites that are known common malware points of entry.
- Limit use of bill pay, online banking, and similar activities onboard.
- Do not let any guests plug external hard drives, or any USB devices into your network without your knowledge and clearance by your captain.
- Inform all onboard about prudent use of social media. Instruct them not to post information about who is on board, where you are bound, etc. Avoid saying anything that can make your boat, or your passengers a target!
Your “wired yacht” faces the same kinds of cyber-threats as any other internet-connected, land-based business or individual, but there are additional risks. By its very nature, a luxury motor yacht is a high-profile target, and there is also greater risk because of the unique way on board IT systems are connected and accessed.
However, you can minimize your exposure by making sure everyone onboard is aware of the potential risks, and follows some commonsense preventive measures.
Operating a motor yacht can be costly. You can reduce your expenses, and avoid costly repairs by keeping her well maintained. On Demand yachting from FYM can help. If you would like to learn more, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Yacht Management specialists, or call us at (954) 900-9968.