Industry explores cyber defense specific to Navy ships at-sea

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Industry explores cyber defense specific to Navy ships at-sea

Defense industry IT firms are emphasizing emerging methods of detecting and thwarting sea-based cyberattacks as the Navy advances a full-fledged investigation into what caused the recent collision between a U.S. destroyer and Liberian-flagged merchant vessel.

While the Navy has not identified cyberattack or any kind of IT malfunction as a possible reason for the incident, which killed 10 Navy sailors aboard the USS John McCain, many experts suspect the scope of the investigation is likely to explore the prospect of a maritime cyber incident of some kind.

As a result, a European firm called Balabit is currently working with several U.S. NATO allies regarding the implementation of a maritime-focused cybersecurity technology based on biometrics. The firm plans to introduce its technology to the U.S. military.

The technology uses unique user keystroke patterns to track and identify precise movement and typing characteristics of a specific credentialed user.

“We are able to set up a baseline for a unique user based on his key strokes, something which is unique for all users. Detecting deviation from the baseline helps us know credentials were stolen,” said Csaba Krasznay, Balabit security executive.

Activity of computer users on the ocean can be shadowed by cybersecurity experts to identify potential cyber theft, attempted intrusions or malicious activity. Krasznay explained that potential intruders are likely to seek access to sensitive ship navigation technology, data systems or on-board command-and-control networks.

Ship-based navigational systems are particularly vulnerable, he said.

“In many ways, maritime is not really different from any other outdoor sectors. However, the sector is not as aware of cyber issues. There are no compliance requirements and no threats that have resulted in the implementation of a cyber framework,” Krasznay added.

The Navy has announced that the 10 Sailors who died aboard USS John McCain (DDG 56) were posthumously advanced to their next rank.

About the Author

Kris Osborn is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. He can be reached at

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