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GTMaritime releases maritime spam and virus e-mail figures

Robert Kenworthy, CEO of GTMaritime Robert Kenworthy, CEO of GTMaritime

Communications software company GTMaritime has released details of the level of unwanted e-mail traffic required to be blocked by its cybersecurity applications before being sent over satellite to ships at sea, with some 3.3 per cent of all messages constituting spam or viruses.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}For an average 5-day period, the company says that its e-mail gateways deal with some 1,038,144 e-mails, of which 31,836 are classed as spam (including Real-time Blackhole List blocking), and a further 2,196 are found to contain a virus.

While spam e-mail can be a nuisance, potentially slowing down satellite connectivity and adding additional data costs, viruses carry a more serious and longer-lasting threat should shipboard networks become infected and compromised.

“In the event of a cyber security incident on board a vessel, the best case might be a crew PC becomes unusable, however this could easily become the captain’s PC, navigational equipment, or engine control systems,” said Robert Kenworthy, CEO of GTMaritime.

“You only need to look back to 2010 to the Stuxnet virus, which specifically targeted industrial control systems and was perhaps the first major incident in modern cyber warfare – while this looks to have been a state sponsored activity, the rise in anti-globalisation rhetoric and the ever evolving capabilities of activist groups increases the risk for the industry.”

“In a traditional land based operating environment compromised systems can cause huge inconvenience and loss to an organisation. Out at sea this can become much more acute as the ability for the IT department to intervene is much more difficult. While in all areas of cyber security prevention is preferable to a cure, this mantra is never more relevant than in the remote environment of a vessel at sea.”

Best practices recommended by GTMaritime for protection against a cyber incident include continual updating of anti-virus software, keeping regular system backups, avoiding opening attachments or Word/Excel documents that contain macros (.docm, .xlsm files), and ignoring links in e-mails unless they are to a trusted website.{/mprestriction}

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    Many years ago and in another industry, not so distant from maritime connectivity… I wrote a piece providing viewpoints on “how much an airline would pay for an early release movie (early window content is the industry term). The piece got me into a considerable amount of bother, writes Joshua Flood, senior research consultant at Valour Consultancy.

    The fundamental issue being how secretive these negotiations were and Hollywood studios, airlines and their content service providers did not wish to shed any light upon the subject. Or I was terribly wrong in my viewpoints. I will stick to the former point.

    Now after many years elsewhere, (similar to Yoda in swamp planet of Dagobah), I have decided to return to one of my favorite types of pieces.

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    Addressing the title of this piece, merchant ships come in a number of shapes, sizes and purposes.

    Breaking out the merchant market from a bird’s eye view; there are roughly 150,000 MSS and VSAT satellite subscriptions in the market. This may confuse some, due to the popularly touted figure of 80-90,000 merchant vessels (depending on your source and classifications). Clearly, this number is less than the number of maritime satellite subscriptions.

    To quickly quash this, a significant number of large merchant vessels require multiple terminals for safety purposes. In addition, some vessels will also subscribe to a multitude of solutions for certain purposes. An example could be subscribing Ku-band VSAT services from Intelsat or Eutelsat, Fleetbroadband from Inmarsat and Certus from Iridium.

    Emergence of VSAT technology

    In the past, merchant operators were satisfied with just MSS (L-band) services, however, over the last decade the use of VSAT technology has become a dominant force within all commercial maritime vessels. There are around 20,000 VSAT merchant vessels active today.

    Looking into the key types of merchant vessels. There is an array of different variations. And when speaking about shipping, certain regions are known for their trade. Asia and Northern Europe for commodity and container vessels, as an example.

    Extra special LNGs

    One of my favourite research interviews of 2021 was with a Cypriot service provider. I won’t say which one or whom, however, it was most definitely one of my most entertaining.

    It was almost like having a conversation with the Cheshire Cat in Alice of Wonderland. I went through a list of vessel types with “the Cat” providing their average monthly airtime fees the company gets for connectivity airtime packages. Bulk carriers, a short grunt and allocated to the bottom of the list of data usage and associated ARPU revenue. MPP and ro-ro vessels followed in quick succession, just above bulk carriers. General cargo and container vessels pique his interest and were placed in middle position of the rankings. PCC and vehicle carriers excite Mr Cat further.

    Finally, we reached tankers, and LPG and LNG types cropped up.

    With a delightful purr, “Beautiful, Joshua! We love both, although LNGs are extra special. LNGs are our favourites!”

    I still chuckle at this answer.

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    Moving away from this abstract narrative, the merchant market is highly fragmented and different vessel types have a big difference in their respective airtime ARPU, depending on usage type, areas of coverage and congestion of such areas.

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    In 2019, Valour Consultancy estimated the average connectivity package per merchant vessel was around $800 (combining both MSS and VSAT services). MSS service per vessel are less than $500 per month generally.

    For Ku-band, this works out around $1,500 and Ka-band around $1,300. The latter will have gone up in 2020, too. For more information on the final point and our latest maritime connectivity research, please download our latest report brochure for more information here.

    Average Monthly Connectivity Revenues in Merchant Vessel in 2019

    MSS only

    <$500

    MSS & VSAT

    $800

    Ku-band

    $1,500

    Ka-band

    $1,300 (this will have increased in 2020 & 2021)

    Bulk Carrier

    $1,300

    LNG

    $3,000 to $4,000

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