Cyber Security

Protecting ship tracking comms from cyber threats

28th April 2020
Alex Lynn

CYSEC SA, a cyber security company from Switzerland has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a solution mitigating the cyber risks related to ship tracking comms using satellite communications.

The digital revolution also impacts the shipping industry by integrating automated navigation, cargo-tracking systems and digital platforms which facilitate operations, trade and the exchange of data. To achieve this transformation, the mitigation of cyber security risks is critical.

There are vulnerabilities in many existing maritime communication systems that could lead to dramatic consequences when under a cyber-attack. In particular, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) provided by multiple satellite constellations has been the subject of spoofing and jamming attacks that led to a partial or total loss of the ability to locate ships at sea. Such a failure can be disastrous if the ship is, for example, navigating narrow straits or near the shore.

Another critical piece of equipment on board is the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which tracks every ship in the world and whose data is used by numerous organisations and downstream services such as insurance companies. Ships have used multiple techniques to tamper with AIS data and entered zones from which they are legally excluded, for fishing or performing other illegal activities.

Both GNSS and AIS signals use satellites and are regarded as critical to improve the safety of maritime navigation and the reliability of data for downstream services. Using its family of secured servers and its experience in satellite communications, CYSEC SA will lead a feasibility study to investigate the protection of both GNSS and Satellite-AIS (SAT-AIS) communications.

CYSEC SA has established a consortium to develop and test the potential solutions composed of U-blox, a global provider of positioning and wireless communication technologies for the automotive, industrial, and consumer markets; and Gomspace, a designer, integrator and manufacturer of high-end nanosatellites for customers in the academic, government and commercial markets. The team will work under the guidance of both ESA and European maritime stakeholders.

CYSEC’s objective of securing maritime communications is a natural extension of its current activities in IoT and Space, where its flagship product ARCA is already used to protect communications to satellites and connected devices on ground.

Laurence Duquerroy, ESA Space Solutions, commented: “Cyber security is a very important topic at ESA, not only for space infrastructures and missions, but also regarding all the services using satellite-based data and technologies. Ship tracking is one of them and cyber security is a complex issue that needs to be addressed. We are delighted that the consortium led by Cysec showed all the technical and business expertise to successfully complete this feasibility study and are looking forward to the outcomes.”

Mathieu Bailly, VP Space and IoT at CYSEC, said: “It is an honour to be awarded a contract from the European Space Agency on such an important topic. The shipping industry currently suffers from various cyber security flaws, posing great threats to the global industry. Resolving these issues is in CYSEC’s DNA by making the best cyber protection tools accessible to companies that currently do not have the expertise nor the resources to benefit from it.”


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