How to prevent internet threats on board superyachts...
Cyber security at sea
Last updated: 21/02/2017
The whole world is connected, and whilst it’s comforting to email friends and family on the go from your crew cabin, WiFi connections aren’t secure. In a digital age of immediate gratification, it’s fun to upload images on social media and to group message, but if you’re not careful, it could pose significant cyber threats to the yacht.
A yacht faces similar internet security threats as any online, land-based business, but additional vulnerabilities can come from the way systems interact on board and how technology is accessed. In many cases the superyacht can be managed from one central unit controlling lighting, engine management, entertainment, air conditioning and navigation and what’s more, it can be wirelessly accessed from iPads and other devices. This set-up, whilst convenient can open up the vessel to security challenges.
There are attackers who constantly search for ways to use the internet to gain access to machines to misuse data. Matt Bingham, CTO at Azuz IT explained, “Malwares, ransomwares, phishing, virus-attacks, pharming activities, malvertising – there are many online security threats, which yacht owners and crew members have to face while using the internet and WiFi access. Plus, you may never know if you or one of the other crew members may be accidentally leaking confidential data to the outside world…”
This raises the question: How can you secure your yacht from cybercrime?
Are web filters the antidote to internet hackers?
A web filter is hardware or software which regulates controlled WiFi access to the internet. For example, whilst at your workplace have you ever tried accessing a social media website, only to find out that the administrator has blocked the access? This is exactly what web filtering is.
How does a web filter work?
A web filter works by categorising a website as accessible or non-accessible, based on a centralised database of white and black listed websites. This categorising is carried out by evaluating domain names, sub domains, intermediate pages, primary pages and IP addresses and then comparing each of them with information present in the central database (maintained by URL filtering vendors).
However, a web filter doesn’t rely on this alone, because it’s near impossible to pre-classify all the URLs, especially when the world of internet keeps expanding. Consequently, a web filter also has to do the evaluation process in real time using algorithms that assess different metrics like keywords and back links to categorise a website which is not part of the central database. This whole process takes a couple of hundred milliseconds ensuring the user a safe and uninterrupted experience.
What are the benefits of installing web filters on board yachts?
One of the primary benefits of installing a web filter is that it helps in regulating efficient usage of bandwidth. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred in a specified time frame. Matt said, “By regulating the access control over different sites and different users, yacht owners and captains can prevent stuffing of data transfer at a given time.
“The data consumption can be limited on a per user basis, helping to prioritise users and controlling the time each user is permitted to access the internet connection. This combined strategy helps in regulating traffic over a single channel, which also improves internet speed and makes data consumption far more efficient.”
Internet protection against hackers
Hackers and attackers use different websites and online channels like email access to gain entry into a system. Since web filters can be used for blocking suspicious sites and content from unknown email addresses, such security threats can be avoided.
Improved protection against data leakage – Different types of web filters
Some web filters allow users to monitor how data is being consumed over different internet connections, protecting against risks of data leakage.
Matt from Azuz IT recommends the following solutions:
- Kerio web filter
- Web filter pro from contentkeeper
- Cyberoam from sophos technologies
- Web titan
How do you install a web filter on board a yacht?
A web filter can be installed in three different configurations:
- Client-side configuration – In client side configuration, users have the option of installing the solution onto a PC or device, which needs to be regulated. The device doesn’t serve as the main server, but rather a member of the established network. Since the installation applies only to a single member, so does the regulation process as other members can freely use the internet.
- Server-side configuration – In server side configuration, the web filter is installed on the machine, which serves as the network hub or the main server of the established internet connection. This gives a comprehensive control over all the connected machines.
- Hardware – According to Matt from AzuzIt, this is the best option. The web filter is located directly in between the internet connections (router) and network switch. This means that any devices on the network will pass data via the web filtering device before sending and receiving data to and from the internet.
Internet connectivity and accessibility is important while you’re on board. As such having a reliable system with efficient control can further improve your digital experience, whether you’re in dock or cruising in the middle of the ocean.