High net worth individuals are increasingly concerned about the risks of being bugged on board their superyachts says Matt Horan, security director of cyber-security company C3IA Solutions
“One reason high net worth individuals enjoy their yachts is, because of modern communications, they can work wherever they are in the world." said Horan.
“But these same communications also mean the computers on board are subject to the same threats as those on land, such as ransomware, phishing emails or hacking. So they need the same level of protection."
Some owners have wrongly beleived that being at sea affords greater security than offices and homes, but Matt Horan is keen to dispel the myth. In recent months numerous vessels have been swept by the company’s Technical Surveillance Counter Measures (TSCM) teams around the world as owners become more aware of the risks their superyachts face.
“The perception that being in a mobile environment, at sea, affords greater protection is a dangerous myth." said Horan. "With regular changes of crews and the yachts being chartered to third parties, there are many more opportunities for bugs and devices to be planted."
Often a client will become suspicious when something he has been said on board is repeated elsewhere. “Clearly, one reason is that the conversation was being recorded. And with bugs so small and easily disguised or hidden, it requires a lot of sophisticated equipment to find them." says Horan.
“Our teams have swept yachts from 130ft to well over 300ft – usually after they have been chartered and returned to their owners. Those targeting these vessels with bugs could be doing it for a variety of reasons; business rivals seeking information, state operations gathering intelligence, or spouses looking for evidence of infidelity."
C3IA typically carries out a full audit of the yacht, its manifest and movements, researching crew members and suppliers and conducting analyses of the yacht’s IT networks to highlight vulnerabilities.
Established in 2006 by Matt Horan and Keith Parsons, C3IA Solutions was one of the first six companies certified by the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The company also supports serving and past members of the Armed Services and sponsors personal and team development through sporting and other challenges.