No plain sailing: modern pirates hack superyachts' cybersecurity

Sci-tech   -  Copyright  euronews   -   Credit: Dubai
By Evan Bourke

Superyachts are battling anonymous cyberattacks from a new kind of pirate whilst hydrogen-powered boats are on track to replace fossil fuels. These themes and more dominated this year's 28th edition of the Dubai International Boat Show.

Returning for the first time since the arrival of COVID, the Dubai International Boat Show is a highlight on the annual calendar for luxury boat manufacturers. Over 800 companies from more than 50 countries use the event as a platform to showcase and unveil their latest products.

Today, we have no regulation of the engine at sea.

One such company was Sunreef Yachts from Poland, which unveiled their new Sunreef Eco 80 yacht. After falling victim to the delays created by the world's shipping crisis, the Sunreef Eco 80 arrived fashionably late to the event with its show-stopping solar panels. The eco-friendly design aims to make the yacht autonomous from docking or refuelling.

As ownership of electric cars is on a dramatic rise, you would expect the same trend to be happening with marine vessels. However, Sunreef Yachts founder and president Francis Lapp explained that the adoption rate for renewable fuels has not been the same on the water as it is on the roads. The french native Lapp said, "the governments in Europe and the world are working on the cars, but not on the boats. Today, we have no regulation of the engine at sea."

One company pushing the boundaries of hybridisation is Seabubbles with its futuristic marine craft. By combining hydrogen and battery power, the Seabubble has reducedcharging time to just four minutes. Whereas vessels of the same size previously needed five to six hours of charging time.

Using similar physics to an airplane wing, the Seabubble uses hydrofoils to create lift to raise it above the water's surface. The hydrofoils reduce drag, which reduces the required energy to move the unique boat.

Pirates hack superyachts' cybersecurity.

Most modern marine vessels are heavily equipped with technology, from GPS and navigation systems to electronic chart displays and information systems (ECDIS). The arrival of this new technology has sailed superyachts into dangerous waters with a new type of pirate.

Owning a superyacht is a luxury for the world's financial elite due to the exorbitant cost of buying and maintaining one. High-tech superyachts with wealthy owners create the perfect combination for bounty-hungry hacking pirates.

It's all virtual warfare, which is happening because your wealth is also not physical.

Pirates in theatrical movies would sail under a skull and bones flag equipped with a hook and an eye patch. However, realistically today, a pirate can hold a ship at ransom from the comfort of a coffee shop.

Cyber security expert Naveen Hemanna explains how the rise of digital banking and cryptocurrencies helps fuel this form of crime. He told Euronews, "The pirates need not be on the boat. It's all virtual warfare, which is happening because your wealth is also not physical. It's virtual, so you don't really need to have a physical presence to get that money out".

Cyber threats to yachts have increased since COVID, proving that it's not plain sailing for yacht owners in the modern world. However, the future of marine vessels is becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly for the waters they are sailing in.

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