Pirates have always posed a threat to seafaring vessels, but the 21st Century version of the maritime criminal has a whole new set of tools at his disposal. Yacht owners should be aware of the threat of cyberattacks by nefarious actors seeking to steal, extort and otherwise take advantage of security vulnerabilities.
Some of the many cybersecurity risks yacht owners face include:
- Crewmembers clicking on phishing links and opening malware-containing files
- Suppliers, manufacturers and contractors who have access to secured systems becoming compromised
- Internet-connected devices such as phones, watches and toys that enter the yacht on passengers and crew members
The global pandemic has only exacerbated the cybersecurity risks associated with yachting. One security firm estimated that the period between February and May of 2020 saw a fourfold increase in maritime cyber attacks, largely due to the increase in remote working.
People are the target
Yachts present an attractive target for hackers. They are owned by people with deep pockets, who are oftentimes public figures in high-profile careers. Cybercriminals who target yachts may be searching for anything from sensitive business secrets to blackmail material. While criminals may seek to disrupt commercial vessels, the goal is often different with yachts. As one expert who specializes in yacht cybersecurity put it, “With yachts, criminals target the owners or guests.”
A security-first mindset helps
Experts stress the importance of establishing internal policies and procedures that curtail the risk of cyberattacks. Not everyone is aware that opening an email attachment or plugging in a foreign USB thumb drive can place the yacht’s systems at risk. Crew members and guests should be made aware of the potential risks they may cause by interacting unsafely with computer systems. An investment in a network monitoring service may provide added peace of mind.
Well-drafted legal contracts with strong indemnity and liability clauses provide an added layer of protection. If something does go wrong, you can rest assured that you have taken legal steps to protect yourself to the greatest possible extent. Whether you are seeking peace of mind through planning or need to remedy an urgent crisis, having a strong legal ally in your corner places you in a stronger position.