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Cyber security: Addressing the gap in understanding between C-Suite and IT managers

Shipping companies need to adopt a holistic approach in managing cybersecurity as a business risk and this means closing the significant gap of understanding of cybersecurity between C-suite executive level and those involved in managing the organisations’ IT, warns PwC Greece.

Company management and boards must be in a position to be able to assess the risks and prioritise on immediate exposures or risks to the business and operations,” said PwC, commenting after a recent Athens roundtable amongst coos and cios and internal auditors of shipping companies.

Santos Equitz, shipping industry leader, PwC Greece said: “The crucial issue of cybersecurity for shipping companies was one of the topics highlighted by the Audit Committee Chairs of US listed shipping companies during the ‘Audit Committee Effectiveness: Going from Good to Great’ roundtable organised by PwC in June 2019. Now, PwC is moving one step forward in addressing the cybersecurity issue for the shipping industry.”

She said discussions following the roundtable, “proved cybersecurity is an emerging hot issue for shipping companies that needs to be urgently addressed both at a company and at a vessel level.”

During the roundtable it was also highlighted that as ships become more and more digitised and more leanly manned, the requirements for cyber and information security are drastically rising and are becoming more complex. Thus, responding to the important issue of cybersecurity should be a vertical team effort within a shipping company, involving a wide range of functions from top management to legal, operations, compliance, risk, technology and audit departments.

Operational Technology (OT) is also a big challenge for shipping companies. Due to ship digitisation IT and OT environments on ships have started converging and being interconnected. PwC said: “This convergence increases the IT surface of ships, opening new attack avenues that may impact the critical infrastructure operating the ship.

“In general, there is an abundance of OT technology that is unmanaged from a cyber perspective. This exposure should at a minimum be understood and then monitored.”

Event participants also discussed the importance of cyber resilient software in managing cyber risks. Software vendors developing applications for ships is an important link in the shipping industry landscape, and they should follow a well-defined approach in making their products cyber resilient. Regulatory bodies and policy makers have a key role to play in this initiative.

Also there is a need for awareness training of mariners to prevent ships being used as an entry point into corporate networks is worth considering. It is good practice to have an independent cyber readiness diagnostic performed periodically in order to benchmark the steps taken by the organisation to address cyber threats against best practices in the broader market and in order to test the defences and responses in place.

George Kollidas, director, technology consulting, PwC Greece said: “PwC sees cybersecurity as a top priority on the agendas of the shipping industry decision makers. Initiating awareness, raising the flag, informing the decision makers about potential cybersecurity threats, challenging shipping companies on their preparedness to a potential cyber attack and urging them to build an effective cybersecurity programme, are all part of our role in helping shipping companies to address the importance of cybersecurity.

“Regulatory authorities should provide clear guidance in managing cyber risks across the entire ecosystem, from shipping companies to ports and software vendors”.


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