Unique hardware-based platform cyber risk-assesses any ship’s bridge

The University of Plymouth Maritime Cyber Threat Research Group’s £3.2 million Cyber-SHIP Lab is a unique, hardware-based, configurable research, software development and training platform.

Combining maritime technology with leading-edge cyber security research and practice, Cyber-SHIP researchers work to enhance understanding of maritime systems’ cyber vulnerabilities and deliver world-leading cyber resilience knowledge, tools and training.

Working with industry partners, Cyber-SHIP Lab researchers configure and evaluate numerous permutations of in-service and new ships’ bridge IT and OT.

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Cyber-SHIP Lab is a springboard to develop resources that equip the maritime sector to achieve cyber resilience on a par with best-prepared technology and financial organisations.

Cyber-SHIP Lab vision

A maritime sector at least as cyber threat resilient as the best-prepared commercial and government organisations.

Cyber-SHIP Lab mission

Securing maritime operations through world-leading cyber resilience research, tools and training.

Cyber attacks can cost maritime companies millions, threaten national security and endanger human life.

Our researchers undertake and publish fundamental research into cyber audit and attack visualisation using advanced approaches, including artificial intelligence. This vital work informs development of meaningful solutions and mitigations. The Lab provides a space for demonstrations and informs outreach and training. It enables maritime cyber security best practice and policy adoption, helping to secure international supply chains, economies, and seafarers' lives.

Cyber-SHIP Lab is supported by Research England and maritime industry partners, including fleet owners and operators, equipment manufacturers, classification societies and insurers.

Cyber-SHIP Lab in detail

While cyber security is relatively well understood in most sectors, it is clear that, despite rapid adoption of digital and technology in the maritime sector, it is not well prepared to meet and mitigate cyber and cyber-physical attacks and accidents.

Cyber-SHIP Lab addresses this by building understanding, tools and training to deal with the complex and interlinked cyber security issues in the unique maritime context.

Researchers from the University of Plymouth’s Maritime Cyber Threats Research Group and its Centre for Security, Communications and Network Research lead the Cyber-SHIP Lab project. This combines multidisciplinary research and practical expertise from across the University and beyond. It builds on our extensive track record of research in areas including:

  • threats and impacts in maritime cyber security
  • cyber risk assessment for autonomous ships
  • model-based frameworks for maritime cyber risk assessment
  • maritime cyber security policy, including the scope and impact of evolving technology on international shipping.

UK Aviation, Maritime and Security Minister’s message of support at the Cyber-SHIP Lab Showcase Preview 

The Rt Hon Robert Courts MP, Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security opened the Cyber-SHIP Lab’s Showcase Preview with a message of support and encouragement.

“This unique new research facility will further enhance the University’s world-leading maritime facilities, building on Plymouth’s strong maritime history to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the future maritime sector.” He added: “I am so pleased that the Cyber-SHIP Lab will play a crucial part in tackling the cyber security challenges facing the shipping industry.”

Creating ships’ bridges in the Lab

Cyber-SHIP Lab brings together an endlessly configurable host of connected maritime systems currently found on ships’ bridges—equipment commonly deployed across international fleets, configured and re-configured in vessel or vessel-type-specific layouts. It can effectively replicate any real-world physical ship’s bridge and connected OT.

Cyber-SHIP Lab provides insights that cannot be gained in the virtual world through simulation alone.

Indeed, the Lab’s unique hardware-based platform complements the University’s fleet of nine ship simulators and our cyber ranges. Hardware lab outputs—including real-world attacks on non-virtual machines—are used to make researchers’ and crews’ simulator experiences much more realistic and useful.

Uniquely, this means we can use the Cyber-SHIP platform to determine physical systems’ key vulnerabilities under a range of cyber attacks. It enables development and demonstration of safeguards at technical, system and operational levels. This is a world first capability that empowers our researchers and industry partners to improve global shipping security today and in coming years.

Work with us

Industry collaboration is a key feature of the project. Cyber-SHIP Lab is currently working with 18 maritime sector partners, including ship operators and companies involved in the supply of hardware and software, construction of ship’s bridges and training and management of personnel internationally.

Such industry engagement is vital. It is only by working with those in the sector that we can develop solutions applicable in the real world.

The University of Plymouth has an unrivalled track record of industry engagement, translating our research outputs into everyday societal benefit.

We are seeking additional partners to collaborate with us in building maritime cyber threat resilience. Whether your interest is in shaping collaborative research, meeting future training needs, or ensuring systems’ resilience, please contact Cyber SHIP-Lab Project Manager Chloe Rowland to discuss how your organisation can join us in this pioneering maritime security project.

“Cyber-attacks are a tier-one National and international threat. And although the maritime sector is advancing technologically, it is not well protected against cyber or cyber-physical attacks and accidents. Worth trillions, Maritime has an unmatched reach across international waters, which exposes people and goods to a diverse range of threats, putting the shipping industry at high risk. This is why Cyber-SHIP Lab is so important.”

Plymouth Pioneer Professor Kevin Jones, Executive Dean for Science and Engineering and Principal Investigator for the Cyber-SHIP Lab Project.

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