AMSTERDAM – Few issues stoke greater anxiety than onboard cybersecurity gaps. It is an issue that over the years has often gone by the wayside as builders crammed smart technologies into yachts making them more fun, more luxurious, more comfortable.

Protection of internet-connected hardware and software often takes a back seat, says a report by Nettitude, a New York-based Lloyds Register Group company. It says a key factor hampering the drive to boost cybersecurity across the superyacht sector is “an isolationist approach.”

“Clients who have carried out their own threat-modeling and concluded their risk of compromise” to be extremely limited — given their vessels’ distance from other networks — now rue that conclusion, the report says.

Van Berge Henegouwen’s Goran Ivanojevic

Against that backdrop, at the 2019 Monaco Yacht Show, Atlas Cybersecurity of the United States and Amsterdam-based systems integrator Van Berge Henegouwen struck a security partnership to make superyachts cyber-secure.

Anton Goranijevic, head of business development at VBH, says his company “traditionally delivered technology as a solution, but to fight cybercriminals you need people, processes and technology.”

Atlas Cybersecurity and he tell hair-raising tales of yawning security gaps on pricey yachts. Atlas CEO Benjamin Dynkin speaks of “a lack of appreciation of best practices.”

The Nettitude report says superyachts’ connectivity consists of always-on, banded VSAT connections, multiple 4G networks for in-shore use and the ability to deal with bonded Ethernet connections from portside ISPs.

It found cybersecurity to be a priority for yacht owners who “are often extremely concerned with the privacy of their personal and business affairs” and their physical security. Still, it added, a large yacht’s maintenance and inventory management can be poorly designed, giving attackers “access to internal plans and imagery of the vessel,” eliminating the need for any physical reconnaissance of the vessel. “This data is now accessible remotely,” the Nettitude report says.

It says crew access to onboard computer systems must be strengthened. On large yachts, the Electrical Technical Officer may be responsible for anything “from running the owner’s theater system or replacing batteries in guest room doors to managing the VSAT connection.”

But running what amounts to “a mid-sized business IT network” requires significant system administration skills. Nettitude recommends owners “invest heavily” in training ETOs in modern IT business practices and partner with reputable security firms.

Dynkin, the Atlas Cybersecurity CEO, says demand for IT skills is growing fast as cybersecurity is an increasingly urgent issue for many industries. He estimates that by 2022, there may be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide.