Experts urge Indian shipping community to build robust cyber security


Experts in Singapore have urged India to build a strong cyber security system for its shipping sector, saying the country is investing billions of dollars in maritime infrastructure but the enforcement of anti-cyber attack rules is not as per the need of the hour.

Geoff Leeming, partner at Singapore-based cyber security consultancy Pragma, said cyber attack was a mega problem for every industry but the shipping sector has just "woken up in the last couple of years".

Anti-cyber attack rules and regulations enforcement in countries like India, which is developing multi-billion dollar maritime infrastructure, is lower than the need of the hour, he said.

"Don't just wait for a cyber attack on your ships and maritime infrastructure, for it may be worse than the 26/11 attack in Mumbai," Leeming said, referring to the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai and the September 2001 attack in New York.

"The shipping industry has to wake up to what they can do about these threats from cyber attack planners," he said.

Indian shipping sector, just like the rest of the world, is low on the use of IT expertise despite a large pool of IT talent in the country, Leeming said.

Indian maritime infrastructure development includes privately-owned ports which again are likely "identified" targets for cyber attack, said Peter Schellenberger, managing director of OSERV Private Limited, a global supply chain and services company here.

"Indian shipping companies have started looking into cyber security but it has never been the focus as it should be. Some 95 per cent of Indian exports are shipped which needs a strong cyber security system fully backed by regulations and operating regimes," Schellenberger said at a recent presentation on cyber scurity here.

Both experts appreciated India's massive infrastructure in planning and implementation phases.

Schellenberger also warned that "don't wait for an attack to happen and then hustle around to re-write your legislative pieces for safety".

Citing expensive learning from painful losses, Leeming highlighted the case of container shipping company AP Moller Maersk.

Maersk had said that its revenue loss could be as high as USD 300 million following the NotPetya cyberattack.

As India develops a large number of ports, it is time to have all the regulatory checks in place, the two executives said.

"Cyber attack is a dangerously open game. Governments and shipping community should expeditiously work on strong security systems," Schellenberger added.