[FREAK] “Autonomous ships are not so watertight to cyberattacks…”

The European Union has decided to declare 20 May as the European Maritime Day to celebrate the achievements of the maritime sector. A sector that has been undergoing a renewal in recent years, particularly in terms of technological innovations: maritime drones, robotic submarines, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and even autonomous boats. For example, the American multinational Rolls-Royce announced in 2017 that it would launch a range of autonomous vessels by 2020. For its part, the two Norwegian companies Yara International and Kongsberg Gruppen are currently working on the development of an autonomous ship – a feeder (container ship) to be built in 2020. In France, Kara Technology has developed a completely autonomous ship: EVA2. Equipped with 130 sensors that regularly collect environmental data, this ship is only controlled by a digital interface. This allows the user to control his ship from a connected display, smartphone or watch. But this innovative boat has not only aroused the interest of tourists: in June 2018, hackers tried to hack EVA2 before it went out to sea without human intervention in the bay of Les Sables d’Olonne. “We were victims of a spoofing attempt on the 4G antenna,” said Ivain Bignonet, general manager of Kara Technology […] The intrusion attempt was unsuccessful. But we preferred to apply the precautionary principle by postponing the exit. Nothing would have been worse than the pirates’ exploitation of an unidentified flaw in the demonstration “. Fortunately, Kara Tehcnology’s surveillance system was able to detect the attempted compromise in time. As a precautionary measure, ethical hackers from Esaip’s cybersecurity department, an engineering school working in partnership with Kara Technology, will conduct intrusion tests on the autonomous sailboat to detect hypothetical security flaws that will have to be patched later. This hacking attempt highlights that any connected system is by definition vulnerable, if they have the required skills and imagination.