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Wednesday, September 8, 2021 

Dubai-based Elcome International, one of the largest distributors of nautical charts and publications, has created a new secure tool to prevent viruses, malware or corrupted files from being introduced into ships’ navigational computers.

Elcome Bridge Protect provides a simple and cost-efficient method of ensuring safe transfer of files without the need for passwords or fingerprint checks. The package includes a special protected USB 3.0 flash drive and custom client software that makes it impossible for infected files to be introduced into the ECDIS and other networked ship systems when uploading electronic charts and updates.

The shipping industry’s growing reliance on automation electronics and digitization increases the danger of cyber 'bugs' being introduced into ships and shoreside infrastructure. Cyber attacks in the maritime industry have risen by over 900% in the last three years, ranging from malware introductions causing navigational errors to full-blown access-denial ransomware.

Elcome’s senior manager, charts and publications Kostiantyn Matvieiev said: “A primary potential point of entry for shipboard cyber infections is downloads from shoreside networks. Electronic Nautical Charts (ENC), Notices to Mariners (NtM) and software updates are delivered to the ship by satellite links when underway or on a DVD when in port. A USB flash drive is generally used to load these files into the ECDIS computer. If an off-the-shelf unprotected USB is used, it can potentially introduce corrupted files, which can spread throughout the ship’s interconnected network with devastating results.”

The Bridge Protect client software automatically locks the flash drive with a low-level file system that leaves no empty memory space in the USB storage medium, thereby preventing transfer of harmful files inadvertently into the ship’s computer.

Bridge Protect can be incorporated as part of the Safety Management System stipulated by IMO Resolution MSC 428 (98) and becomes a mandatory part of the annual verification of the company’s Document of Compliance, which came into effect 1 January 2021.

“As the shipping industry transitions from paper charts and publications to electronic media, there is increasing danger of disabling cyber attacks that can threaten the ship’s safety at sea.  Elcome is committed to harnessing cutting-edge technologies to protect ships’ systems and ease the workload for crews without compromising safety of navigation,” said Jimmy Grewal, executive director, Elcome.

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