Skip to content

Is the maritime industry drowning in a sea of cybersecurity regulations? 

The maritime industry, a vital pillar of global trade and transportation, is not immune to the unique cybersecurity challenges that come with its crucial role. The threat landscape for ships, ports, and maritime infrastructure has expanded as the world becomes increasingly interconnected. Recognizing these risks, regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Classification Societies, and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have introduced multiple cybersecurity regulations and guidelines. The sheer volume and complexity of these regulations can be overwhelming for stakeholders in the maritime industry. Amidst this regulatory labyrinth, a fundamental truth emerges: if you prioritize doing cybersecurity well, regulatory compliance will generally follow. 

The Regulatory Landscape 

Untitled design (1)-Jun-24-2024-03-38-34-5813-PMU.S. Coast Guard: The U.S. Coast Guard has been proactive in recent years in addressing maritime cybersecurity, including the release of a 111-page proposed rule in February 2024. This follows guidance issued in their 2020 Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 01-20, updated in February 2024 by NVIC 02-24, which provides guidelines for addressing cyber risks in maritime facilities and reporting requirements. 

Untitled design (2)-Jun-24-2024-03-44-37-7362-PMClassification Societies: These organizations, such as Lloyd's Register, DNV GL, and the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), play a crucial role in maritime safety and standards. They have developed their own cybersecurity guidelines and certification processes, which are largely focused on safety. For instance, the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) provides frameworks and guidelines to bolster maritime cyber safety, such as Unified Requirements E26 and E27, as does ABS’s CyberSafety Program

Untitled design (3)-3International Maritime Organization (IMO): The IMO has been instrumental in setting international standards for maritime cybersecurity. The IMO's Resolution MSC.428(98) mandates that cybersecurity risks be addressed in existing safety management systems no later than the first annual verification of the company's Document of Compliance after January 1, 2021, and amplifying guidance has since been provided via additional circulars.


The Confusion of Compliance 

With such a diverse array of regulatory bodies and guidelines, it's no wonder that maritime stakeholders find themselves in a state of confusion. Each regulatory body has its own approach, terminology, and requirements, creating a complex tapestry of rules that can be difficult to navigate. 

  • Overlapping Regulations: Many regulations overlap, leading to redundancy and confusion. A company might find itself complying with multiple guidelines that address the same cybersecurity aspects in slightly different ways.
  • Evolving Standards: Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field. As new threats emerge, regulatory bodies update their guidelines. Keeping up with these changes can be a daunting task for maritime companies. 

  • Resource Intensive: Ensuring compliance with all applicable regulations requires significant resources, both in terms of time and money. Smaller companies, in particular, may struggle to allocate the necessary resources. 

The Simplifying Principle: Good Cybersecurity Practices 

Despite the complexity of the regulatory landscape, there is a unifying principle that can simplify compliance: focus on robust cybersecurity practices. It is far easier to do cybersecurity well and take the regulations as they come than it is to chase regulations. Here’s how this approach works: 

  • Identify Business Impacts. Identify systems that are critical to safety and business operations and those that contain sensitive information. This will provide the appropriate risk posture for each system based on confidentiality, integrity, and availability.  

  • Establish Measurements and Frameworks. Identify required regulatory frameworks to consider and ones that are the right match for your organization. This step, coupled with Step 1 above, forms the “requirements” basis for your cybersecurity posture. 

  • Risk Assessment and Management:. Conduct comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Implement risk management strategies to mitigate these risks. This proactive approach aligns with the core principles of most regulatory frameworks. While “the letter of the law” is important, it is equally or more important to implement controls in accordance with the best risk management practices for your use case.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Improvement: Cybersecurity is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process. Regularly monitor systems using a 24/7/365 Maritime SOC for suspicious activity, conduct security audits, and update defenses as needed. Continuous improvement is a key tenet of all cybersecurity regulations. 

  • Employee Training and Awareness: Human error is a significant factor in cybersecurity breaches, with phishing still being the primary vector for successful attacks. Regular training and awareness programs ensure that employees understand the importance of cybersecurity and their role in maintaining it. 

  • Incident Response Planning: Develop and regularly update an incident response plan that includes not only technical elements but business continuity, reporting, public relations, utilities, contracts, and labor considerations. This ensures that your organization can respond swiftly and effectively to a cyber incident, minimizing damage and facilitating recovery. Exercise this plan regularly and include partners. 

  • Adopt Industry Best Practices: Many cybersecurity regulations are based on established industry best practices. Adopting frameworks such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, ISO/IEC 27001, and the aforementioned IACS/ABS frameworks can provide a solid foundation for your cybersecurity efforts and ensure compliance with multiple regulations. 


Untitled design (1)-Jun-17-2024-06-00-08-7779-AMWhile the maritime cybersecurity regulatory landscape may seem confusing, finding a partner that will help you focus on sound cybersecurity practices can provide clarity and assurance. MAD Security works with maritime organizations to prioritize robust cybersecurity measures by following a proven process, ensuring organizations not only protect their assets and operations but also ensure compliance with the myriad of regulations that govern the industry. In the end, good cybersecurity is not just about meeting regulatory requirements—it's about safeguarding the future of maritime operations in an increasingly digital world. 

About the MAD Security/MAD Maritime 

The maritime industry, a cornerstone of global trade and transportation, is increasingly susceptible to cyber threats. To address these challenges, MAD Security has established a dedicated Maritime Security Operations Center (SOC) to provide round-the-clock monitoring, detection, and response services specifically tailored for maritime operations. 

The MAD Security Maritime SOC is a specialized, 24/7/365 security operations center focused on safeguarding maritime assets from cyber threats. Our Maritime SOC integrates advanced cybersecurity technologies with expert human analysis to deliver comprehensive protection and ensure compliance with maritime cybersecurity regulations. 

MAD Security has conducted hundreds of risk assessments on vessels, terminals, and ports and provides managed security services for maritime clients, including the Maritime Administration’s National Security Multi-mission Vessels. MAD Maritime is led by Cliff Neve, who is a retired Coast Guard Commander and formerly served as Acting Deputy of Coast Guard Cyber Command and Deputy CIO of the White House Communications Agency.  

For more information, contact us today: Contact Us 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is cybersecurity important for the maritime industry?

Cybersecurity is crucial for the maritime industry because it plays a vital role in global trade and transportation. With the increasing digitization and connectivity of maritime operations, the industry has become a prime target for cyber threats. These threats can disrupt operations, compromise sensitive data, and lead to significant financial and reputational losses. Robust cybersecurity measures are essential to protect ships, ports, and maritime infrastructure from these evolving threats. 

What are the key maritime cybersecurity regulations?

Several regulatory bodies have introduced cybersecurity regulations for the maritime industry, including: 

  • U.S. Coast Guard: Provides guidelines through NVIC 02-24 for addressing cyber risks in maritime facilities. 
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO): Resolution MSC.428(98) mandates that cybersecurity risks be addressed in safety management systems. 
  • Classification Societies: Organizations like Lloyd's Register and the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) have developed cybersecurity guidelines and certification processes. 
What are the common challenges in navigating maritime cybersecurity regulations?

Maritime stakeholders often face several challenges in navigating cybersecurity regulations, including: 

  • Overlapping Regulations: Multiple guidelines from different regulatory bodies can create redundancy and confusion. 
  • Evolving Standards: Keeping up with continuously updated cybersecurity standards and guidelines is challenging. 
  • Resource Intensive: Ensuring compliance requires significant time and financial resources, which can be particularly difficult for smaller companies.