Maritime cyber security ship simulator

Experts in cyber security and maritime operations are forging ahead with the creation of a first-of-its-kind research facility at the University of Plymouth.

The Cyber-SHIP Lab was awarded funding by Research England (part of UK Research and Innovation) in November 2019, and will bring together a host of connected maritime systems currently found on an actual ship’s bridge.

Once the build phase of the project is complete, it will complement the University’s world-leading maritime facilities, and enable researchers to improve global shipping security while providing training for those working in the sector.

A key element of the project is its extensive collaboration with industry, and there are 18 commercial partners working alongside the University to bring it to fruition.

They include ship operators as well as companies involved in the supply of hardware and software, the construction of ship’s bridges and the training and management of personnel who work in the commercial shipping industry all over the world.

Professor Kevin Jones, Plymouth Pioneer

Professor Kevin Jones, Executive Dean for Science and Engineering and Principal Investigator for the Project, said:

“This project has the potential to be a real game changer for the shipping industry. Cyber-attacks are a Tier1 National UK threat and the need to protect our maritime operations has never been more crucial, or more challenging.
"As such, the industry involvement in this project is vital, as it is only by working with those in the sector that we can develop the solutions that can be applied in the real world.”

The Cyber-SHIP Lab has been funded for three years with a view to it then becoming self-sustaining, and will address a number of complex and interlinked issues affecting the maritime industry. It will take into account both technological and human behavioural aspects in order to effectively mitigate threats, especially considering the huge variation in vessel types.

The University signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Information Risk Management (Altran Group’s World Class Center for Cyber security) in late 2017, and that partnership will continue through the Cyber-SHIP Lab project. Charles White, CEO of Information Risk Management, said:

“IRM’s established research and innovation relationship with the University of Plymouth enabled us to offer a letter of support for the Cyber-SHIP Lab. As a global engineering R&D company, Altran recognises that cyber security is now at the core of safety criticality for maritime companies. We look forward to working further with the University of Plymouth to explore best how these fantastic facilities can be used to further advance the industry whilst protecting critical national infrastructure.”

Nettitude, a market-leading provider of cyber security services through the Lloyd’s Register network, is also among the industry partners. Ben Densham, Chief Technical Officer of Nettitude, and Elisa Cassi, Cyber Product Development Manager at Lloyd’s Register, added:

“The ability to focus dedicated time, resources and thinking into the current and future cyber security and safety needs of the marine and offshore sector is essential. The Cyber-SHIP Lab at the University of Plymouth will provide a unique platform to enable the collective industry to best prepare, design and build relevant and effective technology, architecture, processes and training to meet these needs. As automation, digital twins, connectivity and cloud services are embraced the ability to simulate, predict and test threat scenarios against these and legacy systems will ensure any digital transformations can be secured appropriately. Nettitude is very excited to support this programme and work collaboratively with a wide range of partners to support this project.”

Tony Taylor, Head of Naval and Surveillance at HENSOLDT UK, said:

“We are delighted to be supporting this important UK initiative in creating a laboratory that gives us an environment where we can understand the threats that the cyber world presents to the marine industry and develop strategies to deal with them.”

Eric Rueda, Eaton’s line manager for software products and connectivity, power quality, EMEA:

“Being a global advocate for cyber security standards, Eaton is excited to partner with the University of Plymouth on the Cyber-SHIP lab project, aiming to improve security of the marine industry where cyber security is of paramount importance. At Eaton, we believe it’s our job to help lead the way by innovating cybersecure solutions that let you connect with confidence. With our ‘secure-by-design’ philosophy, we apply our broad domain and industry knowledge to design and develop products and solutions with cyber security built in from the very start. Through education, research and our partnership with the University of Plymouth, we’re dedicated to continuously evolving our own standards and standards across the industry to ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability for safer, more reliable systems.”

Jake Rigby, Research and Development Lead at BMT UK, said:

“As we embrace the advantages and opportunities of an increasingly interconnected world, we must ensure that we continue to invest in, and provide support to, cyber security. As we have extensive ship design and cyber security capabilities within BMT, this topic is particularly important for us. We look forward to working with both Plymouth and wider industry supporters to make the maritime domain as secure as possible.”

Adam Schink, Innovation Development Manager at BT Ventures, added:

“We are delighted that the Cyber-SHIP Lab bid has been successful and look forward to deepening our relationship with the University of Plymouth and their Maritime Cyber Research Lab. BT share the University of Plymouths drive for increased cyber security within the maritime sector. We currently apply our Cyber Security Platform to protect ourselves and our customers, as well as delivering Cyber Defence Operations to large nation states, large corporations, and the UK Government.”

Cyber-attacks can cost companies millions, threaten National Security and endanger human life.

While relatively well understood in most sectors, it is becoming clear that, although the maritime sector is becoming more technologically advanced, it is not well protected against cyber or cyber-physical attacks and accidents.

Virus alert on ships bridge
Ship's Helm

The Maritime Cyber Threats Research Group

The group has been formed to bring together leading-edge multidisciplinary research and practical expertise in the core areas of cyber-security and maritime operations together with psychology researchers, and maritime law and policy experts

For more about the group, visit their dedicated web page