DNVGL - Managing Cyber security risks - How to make your company and ships more cyber-resilient


(www.MaritimeCyprus.comCyber security is a complex subject and, sadly, cannot be fixed simply by purchasing a “magic box”. Neither can it be qualified in one single index or grade of security/risk. For illustrational purposes, cyber security can be divided into three categories: People, Technology and Processes. Each  category is equally important and needs to be addressed on a continuous basis for your company to be(come) safer. Indeed, trying to solve the problem by working with only one or two of the categories will be much more expensive than working with all three of them for the same level of security/safety improvement. With that said, some attention to one or more of the categories is a lot better than no attention.

1) People

People make mistakes, and in many of the cases where hackers have breached company defence mechanisms, employees or colleagues are the point of entry. What we often see when we are asked to help our customers assess and test their cyber security is that the impact from small mistakes made by crew or employees is bigger than our customers are aware of. The everyday actions of employees and not just some remote criminal hackers present one of the greatest risks to your organization and your customers. The commitment of your people to protect your organization is a critical component of a strong cyber resilience. In other words, focus on the human aspects of your organization – on developing a positive security culture and attitudes, evident in the actions ashore and on board, and which is practiced by walk-the-talk management. Hence, when working with cyber security in your company, raising cyber security awareness among your staff is probably the most effective prevention.

2) Technology

Technology is becoming increasingly complex, also for the maritime industry. Today’s vessels are no longer composed of several stand-alone control systems. Rather, the systems are all connected, dependent on each other and constantly online. Changes to requirements and continuous software upgrades are contributing to making the security of technology more difficult (and expensive). Still, it is of great importance that the technology side of things is also included in your cyber security strategy (keywords: network segregation, hardening, anti-virus, software patching, etc.). 

Most companies today have a good overview of their assets, and they have processes in place for maintaining their systems, but how much attention do you pay to your systems’ cyber risks?

3) Processes

The link between people and technology is processes. IMO has given ship owners and managers until 1 January 2021 to incorporate cyber risk management into their Safety Management System (SMS) or else ships risk being detained by port state control.

On a general basis, we observe that processes are not in place, or what is in place is not enough to give proper guidance in the day-to-day operation or, worse, in case of cyber security events.

Developing procedures to cover cyber security in addition to those already in place for operations, maintenance and safety would seem like yet another paper mill, but it is vital for you company’s safety. We advise you to keep the procedures straightforward with uncomplicated language and make people understand why they are necessary. Furthermore, we recommend you integrate cyber security-related policies, processes and procedures into the present SMS and Planned Maintenance System on vessels, rather than creating independent documents and tools.

10 simple steps to become more cyber-resilient

  1. Think before you click on links and attachments.
  2. Protect your passwords.
  3. Make sure external drives and USBs are clean.
  4. Be aware when third parties enter your location, systems or data.
  5. Never connect personal items to the ship/company-critical systems.
  6. Never use external Wi-Fi for company emails or downloads unless protected by VPN.
  7. Learn how to install and use two-step authentications.
  8. Plan for the unknown – learn how to back up and restore.
  9. Always report errors and mistakes.
  10. Educate yourself on cyber risks and how it affects your workplace, colleagues and you personally.

The main concern, as seen from a class perspective, is the lack of awareness when it comes to putting these three elements together. For example, you will not have good safety if you focus solely on making the technology bulletproof and your crew then finds the processes hard to follow or even inadequate.


DNV GL has summarized all these best practices in a video which is freely available for you on their website. The video has been produced together with the insurance company GARD and is a great means to enhance awareness and build best practices on board and ashore. We recommend all companies to use the video and supporting materials in their efforts to prevent any cyber-related incidents in future.


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