British invention designed to defeat cyber-pirates

Published on: 23 November 2023

Osprey

Andy Cuff from CND with its ‘box of tricks’ that keeps superyachts cyber-safe at sea

A British company has developed an award-winning ‘magic box’ that protects superyachts from increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks.

Computer Network Defence’s ‘Osprey’ device was created to combat the specific threats that high net worth individuals face while on board their superyachts.

Having provided cyber-security on vessels for a number of years, the company realised that a new form of technology was required, especially for vessels that lacked the infrastructure to host traditional services.

With nothing on the market, it developed a briefcase-sized appliance that constantly monitors threats and reports them to the Computer Network Defence (CND) team.

Staff are on duty 24/7 at the company’s HQ in Corsham near Bath and its specialist security centre on the Isle of Man, and they take the necessary actions to eliminate threats.

This year’s Dubai International Boat Show heard how cyber-attackers were now considered a new type of pirate – the cyber-pirate – and boat operators were increasingly concerned.

While designed for superyachts, the Osprey is capable of protecting any sea-going vessel, no matter how large.

Andy Cuff, CND’s managing director, said: “Superyachts face specific threats over and above those that other maritime vessels face. Environmental, anti-wealth and political activists have superyachts in their sights, as do blackmailers, nation states, hostage-takers and business competitors. There is also a community of amateurs which keep tabs on superyachts for a variety of purposes. These superyachts are like cities at sea, with a vast array of technology from GPS and electronic chart displays to information systems to communication devices.The crew and guests have their own tech on board and the potential for hacks is huge unless the cyber-security is of an extremely high standard.

“We send our Osprey box to the superyachts and the crew simply plug them in and we configure them from our office. The boxes digitally hide themselves behind a next generation firewall and are invisible to any hacker. They do not affect the other systems on board and manage their use of internet bandwidth on the vessels. We have miniaturised the Osprey as much as we can because space is limited – but they have plenty of power.

“As well as constantly scanning for vulnerabilities, the boxes scan for digital assets so we know exactly how many devices and what type are on board. With our team on duty 24/7 monitoring many clients across the world we can act at once when a threat is identified. We communicate with the crew and management companies through email, text and phone calls so they are aware of any situation as it develops.

“There is a growing awareness about the cyber-threats to superyachts and sometimes when a problem is identified the crew overreact because they are not specialists and have little time. With the Osprey on board they can concentrate on their main jobs, reassured that their cyber-security is being looked after. While superyachts are the main clients of this technology, they work on any sea-going vessel.”

Osprey recently won the Techies Award for the Most Innovative Tech Solution.

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