University receives funding to develop cyber protection for maritime sector

The University of Plymouth has been awarded Government funding to meet the growing demand for technology that will protect the UK’s maritime sector from cyber-attacks.

Experts from the University’s Maritime Cyber Threats Research Group will use a grant from the Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative to develop an industry-ready solution that ensures crucial cargo keeps reaching the UK’s shores.

The Maritime Cyber Risk Assessment (MaCRA) framework will enable an operator carrying any cargo on any route to quickly assess new threats to the overall system and determine what mitigation is required.

It will take into account factors including vessel type and equipment on board, cargo being carried and vessel routing, with those aspects also being used to determine attacker motivation.

The completed system will be available to all commercial shipping operators and include an app to provide a high-level rapid assessment of where to prioritise mitigation effort, and an accompanying PC version for higher-level analysis of systemic cause.

The principles behind the MaCRA framework were first set out in a study published in the WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs in 2019. This project will develop those principles into a functioning system.

Kevin Forshaw, Director of Industrial and Strategic Partnerships at the University of Plymouth, said:

“The need to safeguard our maritime industries against the threat of cyber-attacks has never been more pressing. This funding will complement our existing projects and enable us to drive innovation and develop technologies that can ensure the sector, which carries 96% of all goods in and out of the UK, continues to operate in a secure and sustainable manner. It is further and clear evidence that Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City, is leading the way in marine and maritime technology and demonstrates how the research base in the city is helping to create new opportunities as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.”

The project is one of 11 awarded a total of £1.5million as part of the Technology and Innovation in UK Maritime Call, a Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative.

Supported by the Department for Transport (DfT), it aims to help develop technological innovation that improves UK maritime services and operations, with the sector set to undergo significant changes as technology and environmental concerns revolutionise the way it needs to operate.

The funding will help secure the UK’s maritime sustainability for years to come, through the collaborative development of technology and innovation.

Kelly Tolhurst MP, Maritime Minister, said:

“Innovation and technological advancements are key to developing a more efficient and advanced maritime sector as we build a green legacy from COVID-19. Through our ambitious Maritime 2050 vision, this government continues to support creative and innovative solutions to enhance our maritime transport, and I look forward to seeing the results of these cutting edge projects.”

<p>A fully stocked cargo ship heading out to sea<br></p>
Shipping containers c/o iStock_000019468264
<p>Container cargo ship and cargo and sunrise</p>

This is the latest funding awarded to the Maritime Cyber Threats Research Group, which leads the world in the development of technical solutions and training to protect the global shipping industry.

In November 2019, it received funding from Research England (part of UK Research and Innovation) to create a £3million Cyber-SHIP Lab on its Plymouth campus.

It is also part of the €7 million Cyber-MAR project, involving partners across Europe, for which University researchers will lead the development of a global maritime cyber risk model based around real data relating to attacks and potential attackers.

This is also the second time the University has been awarded MarRI-UK funding in 2020, with it being part of a ground-breaking project to create the UK’s first, sea going, electric passenger vessel.

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

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