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How to Stay Safe Online in Jobs at Sea

How to Stay Safe Online in Jobs at Sea

Eve Jones

Whether you're a deck cadet or an officer, it might be fairly likely that cyber security and personal data management are not things that you really connect with working in jobs at sea. But the fact is, as the maritime industry becomes more focused on tech than ever before and you use more and more different apps to stay in touch with friends and family, these issues are something that you probably need to start considering.

Cyber security is an issue that businesses and organizations of all sizes and across all industries need to take seriously and that includes the shipping industry - and the people who work in it.  

When even some of the biggest and best known companies in the world have fallen victim to cyber attacks from hackers, it pretty much means that none of us are safe - and that's both on a business and a personal level. If eBay, LinkedIn, Equifax and Marriott Hotels with all their high tech and expensive software security systems have suffered data breaches and theft of information, the rest of us need to do all we can to protect our own data.

laptop with a red and black Jolly Roger pirate flag on the screen

Why should you care? Because when a company's systems and networks are unsecured, or the software programs that they run their business on require updating, it makes them easy prey for the latest viruses and hacks. And that means that both shipping company and personal data are left open for the taking to hackers and thieves.

How to stay safe online in jobs at sea

Surely it's a business's IT department who should be held responsible for ensuring the safety of a shipping company’s network and data? And while that is true, you also need to take certain measures to ensure that you are playing a part in helping to keep your data safe. Therefore you need to know how to protect yourself to the best of your abilities.

The maritime industry is a traditional one and in the past some shipping companies have been slow to adopt the latest marine tech. In fact even the word  ‘cloud’ is more often used to do with the weather forecast than a secure online storage system!

3 lightbulbs hanging in a cloudy sky

But jobs at sea are changing and as an important part of the shipping sector, you can be instrumental in helping to make crucial changes within the maritime industry. You can help to make life at sea safer in terms of cyber security. And that will benefit both you and the companies you work for.

In fact, last year in Spring 2019, BIMCO began to tackle the issue of cyber security at sea with their new clause which is written so that it can be used in various different contracts. You can read more about the clause on BIMCO's website.

The industry is taking cyber security seriously

So if organizations such as BIMCO and the IMO are taking cyber security seriously, what can you do to play your part? And why should you even care?

rusted fence and gate with chain and padlock securing them

While the security of a shipping company that you are working on a contract for might not be top of your list of priorities, making sure that your personal information that is stored online is safe certainly should be!

On a personal level, common sense is everything when it comes to keeping yourself safe online. Are you guilty of using the same passwords to access all your accounts? Are those passwords overly simple and easy to crack?

How can you protect yourself?

You'd be surprised how many people use "123456" or "password" to log in to their email inbox, Facebook or Twitter accounts, apps for finding jobs at sea or even their online bank accounts!

You need to make sure your passwords for each website or app you log in to are different - if someone with bad intentions knows, or figures out, your password to Instagram and it's the same as all your other passwords they're going to have a field day with all your information.

a hacker wearing a mask and sitting at a computer in a dark room

The thing with getting hacked is the outcome could be something as 'innocent' as a friend working out your Twitter password and posting a stupid (or offensive) tweet on your behalf to a shadowy stranger thousands of miles away hacking into your bank account and stealing your money.

How to pick a strong password

There are a number of things to do when you're choosing a new password (or changing an old one). Try these three tips:

  1. Choose a password with at least 12 characters in it
  2. Make sure it has lower and upper case letters as well as symbols and numbers
  3. Don't choose anything really obvious - your name, partner's name, job title, date of birth etc

So for example captaincook1980 is not a strong password. Especially if you're a captain, your name is Cook and you were born in 1980! Any hacker worth their salt could figure that out. You need something that looks far more like gobbledegook: gT479&B2xX$1 for example.

jumble of wooden printing blocks with a mix of letters and numbers

"But that's going to be impossible to remember!" you say. Probably - but there are ways you can create a password that is virtually impossible to crack but relatively easy for you to remember.

Other ways to stay safe online

As well as making sure your passwords are impossible to crack you also need to pay attention to the apps and software you use. For example, are those apps and software programs updated and running on the latest version?

Reputable companies that create software and offer apps - such as Martide's app for seafarers that helps you find jobs at sea and stay in touch with employers and manning agents - will be regularly updated to include the latest security measures to make them harder for hackers to break into.

smartphone with an image of a padlock on the screen

Email phishing is still very much a danger too. This is a trick used by users with malicious intent to either steal your personal information (and therefore your money or your identity) or sometimes to install malware (malicious software) on your laptop or phone to wreak havoc.

A phishing email is designed to look like it comes from a genuine company - usually a big organization such as PayPal or Amazon - and it will normally contain a link. The idea is that you'll click on that link, enter your personal details or credit card information and - boom - that data falls straight into the hands of the hacker.

person wearing mask holding out there hand and looking at an object in it

So, are you 110% sure that the links you click on or documents you open in emails are from who they say they are? Here are a few things to look out for:

  1. Does the email address you by name? A genuine email will usually start with your name. Phishing emails often call you 'Dear Customer' or 'Dear Member'.
  2. Check the domain name (the email address). An email from PayPal will come from PayPal.com while a phishing email will likely have either a completely different address or one that has been modified. For example, a phishing email pretending to come from PayPal could have an email address like www.paypall.com - see the difference? How to check this: hover your mouse over the links in the email (but don't click them!) and you should see the email address appear at the bottom of your screen.
  3. Remember that genuine companies don't normally ask you for your personal details. You bank is not going to send you an email asking you to fill out your credit card details online!
laptop sitting on a desk with three dollar bills floating around it

Stay safe on land and at sea

The best way of ensuring you're secure when you're online, both on dry land and at sea, is to be using programs and software that are encrypted, secure and developed by a trustworthy source.

There's a lot more to maritime technology than Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. If you're lucky enough to have WiFi onboard, it can just as easily refer to logging in to your email account or Facetiming with the family when you're away working in jobs at sea.

You just need to make sure you're as safe as possible - in the technical sense of the word - while you're doing so.

woman holding handheld device and accessing a VPN

Technology doesn't have to be scary!

Of course, you need to stay safe while you're online but technology doesn't have to be seen as a scary and unknown entity. For example, it can help you line up contracts.

Whether you're an officer or a rating, a deck cadet, able seaman, oiler, fitter, second engineer or any other rank looking for new jobs at sea, Martide can help. We're always looking for qualified seamen for our prestigious clients in the maritime industry.

Download our free (and secure!) mobile app today from Google Play for Android phones or the Apple Store for iPhones, register an account, create your seafarer profile (AKA your online maritime resume) and start browsing some great maritime jobs now.

Stay safe and we look forward to seeing you onboard soon!

This post was originally published on 16th January 2019 and updated on 22nd April 2020.