The United States Navy is working to develop a defense system against hackers in order to protect its ships from being disabled or controlled by external parties.
The defense system is called “The Resilient Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical Security System”, or RHIMES. Its goal is to prevent cyber attackers and hackers from compromising certain critical programmable logic controllers that are used to connect the computers of the ship with the ship’s onboard physical systems.
RHIMES utilizes various methods of core programming for each physical controller of the ship. By doing this, it prevents a single cyber-attack from disabling or taking over the entire ship all at once.
Basically, multiple hacks would be required in order to take over or disable multiple parts of the ship because the same hack would be ineffective against the ship’s other controllers.
While this precaution might seem basic, it will most likely be a major step towards protecting critical warship systems. By using this method, major ship functions such as electrical power, steering, and engine power are much more likely to remain protected in the event of a security breach. Losing such functions could be particularly devastating if they took place mid-battle.
Cyber-attacks affecting large physical systems have become a greater threat in recent years. The United States has gotten involved in the hacking game, as it used a “computer worm” known as Stuxnet to attack Iran’s nuclear program. A similar effort against North Korea’s nuclear program failed.
Germany also experienced a cyber-attack, when one of the country’s steel mills was hacked in 2014. A blast furnace was overheated, while plant workers were prevented from properly shutting it down. This led to the system experiencing significant damage.
The Navy is smart in being proactive when it comes to cybersecurity. If a security breach had occurred without prior preparation, it could have led to many deaths.
Meanwhile, a system similar to the RHIMES approach might be useful in cars, aircrafts, and factories in order to prevent hackers from manipulating their processes.