Stephen McCombie officially sworn in as Professor Maritime IT Security


Thursday 23 June 2022, Dr. Stephen McCombie has been officially sworn in by the Executive Board of NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences as a Professor in the Maritime IT Security (MITS) research group. During his inaugural speech, McCombie spoke on the theme “Building maritime cyber security resilience by knowing your enemy.”

During his installation, McCombie took his audience into the world of maritime cyber security and the growing demand for IT security knowledge within it. McCombie: “The criticality and fragility of our supply chains has been clearly demonstrated during COVID-19 Pandemic. This is particularly evident within the Maritime Transportation System (MTS). At the same time cyber-attacks by nation states and criminal groups are increasingly targeting ships, ports and associated infrastructure. I believe in Maritime Cybersecurity we can by better understanding our cyber adversary, their disposition, their motives, strengths and weaknesses, derive true strategic insight from the information we gather. Cyber threat actors vary significantly from state sponsored information warriors to ransomware gangs to hacktivists protesting using the Internet. These differences mean that how we should defend against the particular adversary, or set of adversaries, varies too. Knowledge of those threat actors should inform our every action.

By building a database of actual cyber-attacks upon the maritime industry, observing cyber threat actor behavior using honeynet ships and doing security technical testing on maritime technology we can build a clear picture of the cyber threat actors targeting the maritime sector and their methods. We can also take this information to create realistic simulations for maritime crews, port authorities, ship owners and government. These simulations enhance cyber security awareness, equip participants with good response practices in case of cyber-attack and help us better understand weaknesses in crew/team dynamics. In addition this information can help us predict future attacks, build better processes and embed targeted cyber resilience in new maritime technology.”

Importance of professorship MITS

The Maritime IT Security professorship, part of the ICT & Creative Technologies academy in collaboration with the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz, is in line with the Dutch Maritime Strategy for which ship security and port security are important cornerstones. With more than 90% of international trade being transported by sea, the shipping industry carries the majority of fuels, raw materials and goods for the world economy. Port systems and ships are increasingly connected to each other through a digital infrastructure and through internet, and as such, the possibilities for, potentially unmanned, autonomous ships are rising. However, this means the risk of ransomware and other cyberattacks is also on the increase. The guestlist of the inauguration also demonstrated the important of the professorship, attendees included experts from the US Coast Guard, Netherlands Coast Guard, Royal Netherlands Navy and Netherlands Police.

About Stephen McCombie

Dr. Stephen McCombie, graduated in computer science and has over 25 years international experience in the field of IT security. His career has developed from an initiating role within the police force in New South Wales (Australia) as a specialist in investigating complex computer criminality, through to aviation and banking. In the field of maritime IT security, Stephen’s work includes collaborating on a cyber scenario of a maritime conflict in the South China Sea. He was most recently a Senior Lecturer in Cyber Security at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Stephen’s PhD thesis examined the impact of Eastern European cybercrime groups upon Australia, and he is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Fraud Examiner and Information Systems Security Management Professional as well experienced in forming research groups.

Professorship Maritime IT Security

The goal of the Maritime IT Security research group is to conduct impactful research into cyber threats to the Maritime Transportation System (MTS). Want to know more?

Professorship Maritime IT Security