Canadian Naval Capt. Crain Working with CCICADA To Anticipate and Prevent Maritime Cyber Attacks

Canadian Navy Commander Peter R. Crain is seen here on his ship the HMCS Athabaskan in a trailer for the movie Rescue 3D.
Canadian Naval Captain Peter R. Crain, former commander of the HMCS Athabaskan.

Canadian Naval Captain Peter R. Crain, former commander of the HMCS Athabaskan.

Canadian Naval Captain Peter R. Crain, a cybersecurity expert, recently spoke with CCICADA and other homeland security groups about the urgent need to protect the American homeland against emerging maritime cyber threats such as the remote destruction of large ships and oil rigs by terrorists.

Capt. Crain was the featured speaker in a CCICADA-hosted seminar and teleconference on August 7, 2014, involving about 30 participants from industry, the US Coast Guard (USCG), the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and CCICADA research faculty and students.

The training of the frontline workers, first responders, analysts and Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE) leaders is a high priority of DHS. It is also an important mission of CCICADA, the Command Control and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis, a DHS University Center of Excellence.

Capt. Crain said the threat of cyber-attacks in the maritime industry is real and could have a severe impact on commerce and the economy.   For example, as part of a terror strategy, a relatively low-priced GPS jamming device placed in a port or close to an ocean oil rig could easily disrupt operations, potentially resulting in a massive oil spill. Cyber terrorists could also hack into shipboard navigation systems to make vessels invisible to the rest of the world or to make them collide with other ships or steer into ports and highly populated coastal cities.

“These are all very real and sobering scenarios,” said Dr. Fred Roberts, director of CCICADA, a consortium of 17 universities and companies based at Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ. “We must take these threats seriously and begin to take steps to prevent them.”

Captain Crain said a lack of understanding about maritime cyber threats makes maritime industries vulnerable to attack. As part of his presentation, he also introduced several ideas to begin to mitigate this problem.

Canadian Navy Commander Peter R. Crain is seen here on his ship the HMCS Athabaskan in a trailer for the movie Rescue 3D.

Canadian Navy Commander Peter R. Crain is seen here on his ship the HMCS Athabaskan in a trailer for the movie Rescue 3D.

The overall goal of his talk, and CCICADA’s primary reason for sponsoring it, was to raise the level of awareness of the maritime cyber threat to the HSE and research community.

Crain is Captain, Canadian Navy and Branch Head, Strategic Plans and Policy, NATO’s Centre for Joint Operations from the Sea (CJOS). Crain was featured in the movie Rescue 3D, directed by Stephen Low, which follows the stories of four main characters, including Capt. Crain as commander of the HMCS Athabaskan, as they respond to Haiti’s massive 2010 earthquake.

Feedback on the seminar/teleconference was very positive. Some participants indicated that the material presented by Crain will inform strategic planning at their agencies.

Capt. Crain and CCICADA are also discussing how the two centers can collaborate on projects in this area. Captain Crain will speak at the March 2-13, 2015, Learning Seminar and Symposium on Maritime Cyber Security at Rutgers University, an event co-sponsored by CCICADA and American Military University.

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