Virus Protection Tool for Ships’ Navigation Computers

Elcome International, one of the world’s 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 percent in the last three years, ranging from malware introductions causing navigational errors to full-blown access-denial ransomware.

“A primary potential point of entry for shipboard cyber infections is downloads from shoreside networks,” explained Kostiantyn Matvieiev, Elcome’s senior manager, charts and publications. “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 the International Maritime Organization (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 January 1, 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 of Elcome.

As the oldest authorized distributor of UKHO ADMIRALTY navigation products in the UAE, Elcome maintains an unsurpassed inventory of SOLAS-compliant printed and digital nautical charts and publications with various convenient methods of delivery and licensing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Bridge Protect?

Bridge Protect is a tool developed by Elcome International to protect the ship’s bridge IT systems from cyber-attacks or unintentional malware when transferring files and loading updates to onboard computers.

How are infected files introduced into the ship’s systems?

Electronic Nautical Charts (ENC), Notices to Mariners (NtM) and software updates are sent to the ship by email or satellite data links when underway or on a DVD when in port. These files are generally downloaded or copied to a USB drive, which is then inserted into the ECDIS computer to upload the files. If a standard unprotected USB is used, it could introduce infected files that can spread to the entire interconnected network aboard the ship.

What is included in the Bridge Protect package?

TheBridge Protect package includes (1) a special protected USB 3.0 flash drive with storage capacity of 8 GB and (2) client software. It is a simple and easy tool for transferring files into shipboard computers safely without the use of passwords or fingerprint checks.

How does it work?

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 into the ship’s computer.

Is it difficult to install the Bridge Protect system?

You load the client software onto the USB following an easy and simple routine. Then the software automatically protects files being transferred on the USB to shipboard computers. You can re-use the protected USB endlessly, deleting files that have been transferred and loading new files onto it.

How do I use it to upload ENC files to the ship’s computer?

When ENC updates are received on the ship, you simply load the files, in either zipped or unzipped form, onto the protected Bridge Protect USB flash drive, using the client software interface. The loaded USB can then safely be inserted into the ECDIS for downloading the new updated files.

Does Bridge Protect meet international standards?

Bridge Protect can be incorporated as part of the Safety Management System stipulated by the International Maritime Organization (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.

Why can’t I use a normal off-the-shelf USB drive?

Standard off-the-shelf USBs can be used to bypass standard anti-virus protection. Some USB devices currently on the market can harm computers and the entire network. For instance, some USB devices have the functionality of working as a USB keyboard, and any number of keystrokes can be passed through without being detected by standard anti-virus protection. Another danger is that a standard USB can be taken away from the bridge by crew members to be used to download files from their home or personal computers and then returned to the bridge, potentially introducing viruses. The Bridge Protect USB has very little value to anybody outside the bridge environment, since files can only be recorded onto the drive using custom software installed on the bridge.

Is it compatible with all models of ECDIS?

Bridge Protect is compatible with Windows and Linux operating systems. As per the field tests and lab tests, it is also compatible with all ECDIS brands and models manufactured by JRC, Raytheon Anshutz, Danelec Marine, Kongsberg, Simrad, Furuno and all other models supporting either FAT32 or NTFS file systems.

What happens if the Bridge Protect USB is formatted?

If the Bridge Protect USB drive needs to be wiped, the client software must be used. If it is formatted outside the client software, then the USB becomes permanently damaged and can no longer be used.

Where can I learn more about recommended guidelines and best practices for shipboard cyber protection?

See IMO Guidelineson Maritime Cyber Risk Management (MSC-FAL.1/Circ 3 Annex). Or contact Kostiantyn Matvieiev, Senior Manager for Charts &Publications, Elcome International, telephone +97148121354, email kostiantyn@elcome.com.

How can I order the Bridge Protect package?

Bridge Protect can be ordered from our online shop. Orders are also accepted via email: sales@elcome.com

How much does it cost?

Bridge Protect costs AED 275 (USD 75) for one unit and AED 550 (USD 150) for two units excluding tax. It is a one-time purchase price with no recurring costs.

About Elcome International LLC

Elcome was founded in 1970 and is one of the world’s largest maritime companies with a diversified portfolio of technologies, solutions and services. The company is headquartered in Dubai and maintains 24 offices in 11 countries extending from Europe to Southeast Asia, with a total of more than 500 employees. Elcome is the authorized sales and service representative for world-leading OEMs across defense, energy, marine and yachting industry segments and is also a leading system integrator responsible for many vital land-based, offshore and national security projects in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Elcome also operates an FTA-approved training center and bridge simulator in Dubai and offers training and certification for operators and bridge officers.

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