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OceanShield raises $800,000 to stop maritime cyber attacks

Cybersecurity innovator OceanShield has announced a US $800,000 funding round from seed investment company Masik Enterprise, several angel investors, and grant funding. The company launched in 2020, building on extensive experience with industrial control systems protection and two years of lab research and trials spearheaded by co-founder and CTO, Dr. Dmitry Mikhaylov.

OceanShield offers novel and patented cybersecurity solutions to protect the Operational Technology (OT) systems of vessels, ports and maritime and offshore infrastructure. Its patented core Intrusion Detection System (IDS) is a hardware/software complex trained to read and analyse the industrial protocols in vessel OT networks and provide real-time intrusion alerts.

While multiple marine IT protection solutions exist, the OT side has largely been ignored due to the specialised knowledge and technology required to offer functional OT protection. Even as digitisation & automation enable increased efficiency in marine operations, they also carry inherent and rarely understood risks of malicious intrusion into vessel control systems. This is especially apparent where lines blur between IT and OT, and when key OT systems come online with IP-based communication capabilities. OceanShield’s R&D team continues to identify new vulnerabilities in typical vessel networks, which would allow an intruder with even moderate skills to compromise critical vessel systems.

Mikhail Zeldovich, managing director of Masik Enterprises, said: “The maritime cybersecurity domain has focused on IT protection until now, while the threats have already matured and migrating into OT, especially with increase in COVID-related remote services and updates. With our deep tech-driven insight on the OT side, OceanShield is uniquely positioned to carve a niche in this nascent market. We are especially encouraged by the fact that we are successfully engaging top maritime players and institutions and receive positive feedback on both the quality and unique technological approach of our IDS.” Zeldovich recently joined OceanShield’s board as its chairman.

Intrusion into vessel control systems and OT equipment can have devastating impact, e.g. false data in navigational systems causing loss of location, loss of navigational control causing rerouting or collision, compromised ballast systems causing loss of stability and potential total loss, etc. Such incidents may obviously cause disastrous environmental damage and economic or human loss.

Less catastrophic, but no less business critical, situations may occur related to OT focused ransomware attacks where propulsion systems, cargo management or other key operating systems are compromised and locked by cyber-criminals to extort payment from the operator. Examples of such events are pervasive across all major industrial sectors including shipping where vessels remain soft targets.

OceanShield’s strategic advisor, Parag Khanna, added: “The maritime industry is waking up to the risks posed by cyber intrusion by understanding that real security is about more than compliance with rules; rather it is a series of deliberate choices and actions that build a network of mutually reinforcing defence mechanisms. To achieve this goal, a dedicated OT protection element is key.”

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