Author: Ewan Robinson, director of maritime communications and solutions provider Yangosat.
We hacked a ship. The Owner is Liable.
Well, we hacked the communications system of the ship. Technically we have been doing this for a few years.
This time we did it like a “bad guy” would.
We got into the vessel, belonging to a multinational company, and found out everything possible about the system, the setup, the manufacturers information.
This is a very specialised vessel that was alongside in the capitol city of a major European country, carrying out cargo discharge.
We could have broken the system so badly, the vessel would have been back to Sat-C and flag signals.
Any information going through that satcomm would have been able to be collected, checked and used.
As we are Ethical Hackers, we are obliged to act in certain ways. One of them is that we have to tell everyone involved if we did something during testing.
We did. Well, we tried to.
The Owners operators, when we finally managed to get someone in the overworked operations department to listen, didn’t care and ignored us.
The manufacturers didn’t even bother to respond.
All of the test was documented, peer reviewed and otherwise substantiated by trusted persons.
The lawyers are going to have a field day and be very happy.
Ship owners are not.
Owners and operators are being badly supported and advised by these super providers, who use third party engineers, or poorly trained engineers, and leave systems in an exposed state. Equipment manufacturers and developers are so guilty of poor techniques and security that using “industry best practice” is a total contradiction.
Lawyers, P&I and Class are going to be so busy refusing claims in the event of a cyber incident, that the poor owners are not going to know where to turn.
Owners are forced into accepting sub-standard equipment. This equipment cannot be made secure in its current format, and yet the manufacturers and developers, fail to update and secure them.
The providers supply this equipment, along with the bandwidth and engineers who install them, and then incorrectly configure and allow public access to them. The Owner is still liable.
So how were they failed?
We have been presenting at various conferences over the last few years, highlighting how exposed we are as an industry to ‘hackers’ and bad actors.
It normally consisted of a prepared victim vessel, using a system that had been poorly configured by the provider, or the providers appointed/trained engineer, and accessing the equipment onboard, normally the antenna or satcomm system. It’s a quick way to display to an audience just how much we are ‘displaying publicly’.
recently someone asked “what could someone actually do?”
A relevant question we thought, so we tested to see what we could actually do.
As a basic attack, an intruder could lock out all the users from accessing the equipment. They could turn off the satcom, or prevent systems and users onboard gaining access to the internet or to systems onshore or stop onshore reaching the vessel.
OK, so this is annoying and disruptive, costing from a few hundreds to several tens or hundreds of thousands if the charterer deems “off hire” status due to lack of communications.
Well, that’s quite expensive, potentially.
But what can we learn from the systems we can get at?
Given the amount of systems that are exposed to the internet, with poor configuration, it is relatively easy to find a ‘victim’, and to maximise the information gained by using the tools available and exposed by the simplest of mistakes.
Default admin passwords.
There is a need for it, but no excuse for it.
Service Providers, who manage several thousands of vessels, still use engineers who leave default admin usernames and passwords.
So, it’s a fault on one vessel, but it cant really hurt can it?
It can. And it does.
Our target vessel was found.
That took 7 minutes to locate.
It belonged to a very large multinational corporation. The default username and password was still in effect on the VSAT system.
Access was made to the administration area, so all usernames and passwords could be changed. Also available was access to the system by FTP. Even if this had not already been enabled, as we were in the Admin area, we could have enabled it.
This is where major security flaw #1 was found. The FTP access gave access to the entire operating system of the device, not just the FTP area.
Major security flaw #2 was putting a text file in every folder with a map of the entire structure of the operating system.
This allowed for finding and copying the ‘hidden’ password file to our local machine. It was actually encrypted.
2 hours later, it wasn’t.
So now we had all the manufacturers usernames and passwords.
Now we can access the publicly available machines where they have changed the default admin username and password, by using the manufacturers. They have these so the engineers can always get in. Great for business and support, not so for security.
The network connections listed in the antenna setup were then investigated.
The VSAT Modem was accessed, again using default connections on SSH, with publicly available usernames and passwords.
Command line access to the modem was achieved, allowing us to take control and alter the configuration. In effect we could now control the communications in 2 different places.
Such systemic failures, at the developmental and operational level, are going to have huge issues when Cyber 2021 comes into force next year.
Class and P&I will be left wondering who to refuse claims and who to sue for negligence when there are events, while the operators are trusting the providers to implement correctly, and the manufacturers and developers are failing at such basic levels, they will likely be left with the legal responsibility in the first instance.
The lesson of life in todays marine communications environment?
Don’t trust what’s being given to you.
Unless you have had your own trusted IT check what’s gone before, why would you blindly trust a stranger with your vessels now?
The Owner is Liable.
Yangosat is a maritime communications and solutions provider, helping shipowners and providers realise new systems and invigorate existing ones. This article has been reproduced with the author's permission.
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Maritime risk management and environmental assessment organisation RightShip has launched a new Safety Score to improve safety and risk management in the maritime industry. The Safety Score was launched in response to industry demand for more transparent methods of assessing vessels.
RightShip has spent the last two years working in collaboration with stakeholders from across the shipping industry to develop the new Safety Score, which provides a metric that is explainable, transparent and only includes factors which are in the control of the operator, to help support improved safety across the entire maritime sector.
The Safety Score will be housed on the new RightShip Platform, which will replace the current platform Qi as well as the predictive Risk Rating once the Safety Score goes live. The announcement is being made before its formal launch in September 2020, to provide the maritime industry with a period of time to prepare for the switch over.
RightShip’s previous Risk Rating predicted the likelihood of a vessel having an incident across the next 12 months. The new Safety Score focuses on providing the operational performance at the vessel, DOC holder, flag and class level.
The Safety Score uses a refined methodology that analyses the severity of any previous incidents, the frequency of incidents and any previously identified detentions and deficiencies for a given vessel. The new score also takes account of the proactivity of owners, operators and managers in managing safety and risk, by looking at their responsiveness to incidents, deficiencies or detentions. This, in turn, helps to provide a clear, identifiable path towards improving safety standards and processes.
It creates a level playing field for all vessels on the water, regardless of type, size, age or builder, allowing industry participants to benchmark their safety procedures against the sector’s best performers. It is intended to help users gain an initial perspective on the operational performance of a potential charter, and to encourage shipowners to invest in improved processes and technologies that make the entire supply chain safer.
Martin Crawford-Brunt, CEO at RightShip, said: “Since 2001, RightShip’s mission has been to help improve safety across our industry. An important element of this mission has been to ensure that we provide the market with the tools that ultimately help to underpin that pursuit of continuous improvement. Our new Safety Score recognises considerable industry feedback calling for greater transparency and control of ratings, and is the result of widespread collaboration with owners, operators, managers, charterers and others across this global industry.
“We have created a balanced score which can be used by all members of the supply chain. For our due diligence customers, it provides a clearer insight to the operational performance of a vessel and DOC holder. The Safety Score is an indicator designed to be used as one of many factors in the due diligence process. Coupled with maritime expertise, it allows for the assessment of a nominated vessel and the provision of a vetting recommendation for a charterer.
“For the shipowning community, the new Safety Score takes into account management performance and approach, giving owners a true understanding into how they can improve safety across multiple parameters. It also encourages shipowners to invest in system improvement, processes and technologies that make the entire supply chain safer.
“We believe that this will support improving wider safety standards across the industry and drive a new conversation within shipping about how we manage risk whilst safeguarding our operations, which is particularly important in our current environment.”
Over the coming months, RightShip is providing a range of resources to support the launch of the new Safety Score and facilitate the transition. These include educational webinars and a dedicated resource page at comingsoon.RightShip.com.
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Intellian has announced that its v85NX antenna has earned type approval for Telenor Satellite’s Thor 7 Ka-band service, following successful sea trials.
The v85NX, which is the first 85cm antenna to be certified on the Thor 7 network, will benefit from the same airtime pricing as 1m antennas. As service provision for smaller antennas is usually more expensive owing to their lower gain, this recognises the performance of the v85NX and makes it a competitive choice for customers looking for a compact design with low capital and operational expenditure.
Offering up to 25 simultaneously active spot beams, the Thor 7 service is designed to provide optimal HTS Ka-band VSAT connectivity across Europe, covering busy shipping lanes in the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, Baltic Sea and Mediterranean Sea.
Jan Hetland, director, Data Service Division at Telenor Satellite, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Intellian’s v85NX antenna to our leading Thor 7 service. A satellite service providing high-powered performance for maritime applications requires premium hardware, and Intellian’s NX Series systems have a range of attributes which position them at the forefront of antenna technology, reflecting Telenor Satellite’s forward-looking service provision. We look forward to working together in delivering outstanding global communications to our loyal customers.”
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Eric Sung, Intellian CEO, commented: “This certification from Telenor Satellite, and the competitive price bracket in which Telenor has placed the v85NX, underlines the performance and versatility of our NX Series antennas. New customers can purchase a v85NX antenna pre-configured for Ka-band off the shelf, while users who already own a v85NX antenna on a Ku-band network can easily convert it to Ka-band operation for use with Thor 7. We are delighted to join with Telenor in facilitating flexible, high-speed communications across Europe.”
NX Series antennas are shipped pre-slung to facilitate installation, and the use of modular components common to the entire antenna range has cut the number of spare parts required by up to 40 per cent. This in turn simplifies maintenance, enhances reliability and brings about further cost savings for end users.
Digital Ship magazine provides the latest information about maritime satellite communications technology, software systems, navigation technology, computer networks, data management and TMSA. It is published ten times a year.
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