Print Friendly, PDF & Email

These are three of the concepts and issues that shape our lives in almost all areas today. Most work and tasks are significantly easier, if not possible.

But with all the positive and all the benefits of the brave new world of IT these issues also bring a variety of challenges: challenges particularly in the areas of safety, protection, availability and reliability of IT, now known as the broader concept of cyber security. The military world of the German Navy and the maritime defense and use of the area are no exception.

Degree of digitization

The ships and the navy boats are already equipped for decades in many parts of information and communication technology. Already the steam-powered destroyer Z103 were smirking in the late 1960s called "digitized samovars". First computer systems - so they called IT at that time - were found mainly in the central command and weapon control system, which was connected to sensors and weapons to function chains.

In the following decades, the number of digital computers grew considerably on board the frigates (F122, F123), the quick and the mine warfare vessels. On the operational side management information systems came in logistics so-called technical information systems and in the field of marine engineering control and monitoring systems on board. The operational and logistic systems are increasingly connected via radio and via satellite to the environment.

With the introduction of the frigates F124, the Corvette and the new submarines in the early 2000s, the floating units of the Navy reached a barely comprehensible IT density and complexity. And especially the combat systems, weapons, sensors and navigation area are fully digitized and combined in a high-performance network, and also the communication and management information systems are largely integrated into the application system.

Above all, the extensive digitization makes no stop at former bit-free areas. Meanwhile, almost all ship technical units are equipped with numerous sensors and rarely come only without controlling, programmable and monitoring electronics from (so-called Operational Technology, OT). To clarify the situation should be noted that the gas turbines are used in many Frigate be controlled by a control computer, which corresponds to a mainframe computer with appropriate storage capacity from the 1990s. And also the control of a relatively simple axial piston pump has the capacity of 80386 type of a full desktop PC.

Digitalization and networking on board modern frigates (Graphic: Marine engineering school)

To the digitized ship installations further IT systems and networks have been added in logistics, administration, and to care for the soldiers who make the first time (commercial) communication links via the Internet to their peers.

The high point in the digitization and networking of ships and boats of the Navy form the Class F125 frigates and foreseeable also currently in the definition of new multi-role combat ships (MKS 180). Here marine technology is now fully connected to all other systems, organized together in a network and - albeit backed - connected to the outside world and the Internet.

This extensive digitization and networking is wanted and needed. Use and effect of superiority work today and in the future only through information superiority. And this requires a high degree of digitization and extensive involvement of management and management information systems in appropriate information networks. The same applies to logistics, administration and taking care of the soldiers. What is new is the networking of marine technology with the aim of a responsive resource management and its integration into the landside logistics and repair chains or for remote maintenance of the systems by contractors in the home.

It is especially this new network of marine technology and the units mentioned above and their controls, it is important to take a closer look. The arrival in power of the networks and an - albeit indirect - physical connection to the Internet was never intended for the development of these systems in the 1980s and 1990s. His time today were common security standards (eg. As secure operating systems, Update method, enclosures), especially in a comprehensive networking, if at all, only considered secondary. Thus, there are now significant weakest members and some significant vulnerabilities in the overall system.


This would be no problem, but the IT world, the cyber space and the Internet are by no means certain. Terrorists, activists, as well as state actors have identified these areas as a primary goal for their own purposes and make use of dispute.

Phase / elements of the cyber damage (Vector: Marine Engineering School)

So conflicts find today and even more so in the future most likely not without a cyber accompaniment instead (of hacking to information campaigns). And these conflicts can be anticipated far decided in advance of an obvious, conventional confrontation on the new battlefield cyberspace / internet.

The Internet is the most obvious entry point for such attacks. Target are all networks that are connected to the Internet. With even the most well-secured connection to the network a security risk exists. And today there is no network in which can not be invade anyway - as evidenced by the cost-benefit ratio. If an attacker but entered into a network of a ship, the transition in other parts is usually also feasible and, for example, an override or manipulation of the ship's propulsion system, the e-supply or the air conditioning system of a ship possible.

In addition, external information sources, the connections to this or the associated IT systems is also conceivable to bother yourself or manipulate. One example is the Global Positioning System, determined by not only locations but also sensors and weapons are supplied with information. Today it is possible with little effort to bring about manipulated GPS signals ships, drones or missiles astray or to provoke accidents between civilian and military units.

But an increasing threat form the modern logistics systems. So damaged parts through the supply chain or even malicious code can bring about remote maintenance processes unnoticed on board when a detailed examination will be omitted. Here man remains the responsibility to design the new methods safely.

But precisely this is probably the largest gateway. On the one hand, man acts as insiders who attacks targeted the system from within - whether intentionally or involuntarily controlled by exploiting its weaknesses (social engineering). On the other hand, it is especially the inexperienced, inadequately trained and sensitized users, showing through his negligent handling of complex IT and networks is a growing security risk and makes many attacks possible.

This is only a selection of possible attacks on the new battlefield, to which the Navy issued with their digitized, automated and fully networked units. They are diverse, hard to prevent permanent and rapidly increasing threat and. could adapt to the attack surface. The cyber threat would actually hardly play a role when one renounces modern IT and networking and analog technology, in extreme cases, pencil and paper returns (Back to the Roots). But for good reasons a waiver of powerful IT and networking and automation is not an option today.

Today's world demands high-tech, highly efficient armed forces, fast response times and maximum overview to exist in a traditional and high-intensity combat.

But in addition is also effective to cope if necessary before an open conflict a modern cyber scenario. Therefore it is necessary to address also the cyber threat and the resulting from solid networking and automation risks accordingly.

To this end, in turn, the extensive and varied used aboard ships and boats IT / OT systems and the various networks significantly secured, and to provide more reliable, as the basis for mission accomplishment, but also for the safety and protection of man and machine.


There was talk so far, it is the general threat before a statement approaches to estimate first how big the actual risk and the derivative action for the German Navy and the maritime procurement side really is.

When speaking of concrete risks of a cyber attack, the aspects of the probability of occurrence and the subsequent effects are to be considered in addition to the previously considered a threat:

Risk = Threat x probability x impact

The scope of the fundamental threats from the cyber space, which came alongside the traditional threats kinetic manner set forth above.

The increase in digitization, automation and networking a wide attack surface for potential opponents in the cyber space has been created. In addition, these opponents appear in the light of available high technology, time and system resources a clear advantage. Undisturbed and without pressure, they can find a flaw or illegal access at any point in the IT landscape of the Navy. In contrast, the guardians must be vigilant around the clock and around the highest and continuously defend the IT systems. Thus, in expert circles long gone, the question "whether" and not "when" done a momentous attack against the IT systems of the Navy.

Instead, it is rather a question of intensity and impact. The damage that an attack on the IT systems on board could very well up to a peripheral Kill mission or even a total loss of a ship enough if the fatal effects of the recently heaped occurred navigational error on naval units in the Pacific or off Norway one is remembered.

used in the above formula, therefore results a substantial concrete risk for the material, but especially for the participating soldiers of the Navy and therefore also a considerable need for action.


active and passive weapons systems to cure and increase the staying power - - to protect the ships and boats against the traditional risks for a long time, comprehensive measures of defense are used.

In the area of ​​cyber security, however, there is still significant room for building up, even if there is already a protection against attacks on the digital systems of the Navy. some (possible) are presented fields of action and approaches in the following:

Currently takes place protection primarily through organizational and focused on classic IT threats procedures and regulations (individual consideration, insulated protection through firewalls, data diodes or virus scanner).

Only relatively few measures dedicated to the configuration and hardening against current threats from the cyber space in order to achieve an improvement in the fundamental resilience of the resilience of IT systems against cyber attacks.

Also needed especially in a highly complex system ship next to the curing of the individual systems of a comprehensive and balanced consideration of resilience for all IT / OT systems, and the intervening networks in the specific context of an appropriate security architecture.

Such a total system approach is in principle provided created by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) IT Baseline Protection Catalog and given, for it is compulsory basis for the implementation of IT security in the German army and taken into account with a block "ship" even special concerns of the Navy.

However, cyber security is not a rigid state but a highly dynamic field. A just been safe and well-protected system can in the next moment, his already highly threatened with the next stage of development of the technology or a newly discovered vulnerability. So necessary is a constant updating of security measures in an agile update management and a reliable and accurate administration for all systems.

To a peripheral cyber security consideration also includes a strengthened consideration of dimensional man and the continuous education and training of users, to raise awareness among other things, both current safety requirements, as well as ensure the so-called cyber-hygiene.

This extensive and complex to be implemented demands for resilience may well seem questionable in view of the above-mentioned inevitability of a cyber attack. In fact, this idea is taken into account in the usual consideration of the residual risks: Only in individual cases and in particular objects to be protected is targeted to the absolute prevention of a successful attack, also due to the substantial restrictions on use. And because you can or such attacks ultimately not entirely sure prevent wants the focus of the effort is now more on the fight against the consequences of a cyber attack, on minimizing its effects and the fastest possible restoration of operational readiness.

This compares well with the way the ship technical damage prevention responding to fire or water leaks. For this reason is increasingly spoken in cyber-attacks of the need for cyber-damage prevention.

However, we also needed for this approach a fundamental cyber resilience, hardening and staying power of the entire system as a prerequisite for based on it defensive measures.

To this preparation also includes a comprehensive picture of the situation, must be included in which also the external cyber threat (Intel). but is essential for an early and rapid detection of actual attacks a powerful overall system monitoring for all IT / OT systems and networks on board. An efficient reaction, ie the containment, isolation and maximum compensation of an attack requires agile, proactive and adaptive process z. Example based on artificial intelligence. In addition to more powerful hardware and software that is already available in the market, especially personnel aspects in support of this task should be considered. It should be noted that a ship or boat has to act autonomously and independently of any currently existing country support itself, which is in doubt is no longer accessible. A personnel component on board is able to safely configure the one hand, the systems and perform the above-mentioned comprehensive monitoring and also to control the reactions to attacks in all its facets in a timely and highly professional (IT-supported) and implement the system as soon as possible to bring back online.

Cyber ​​security expertise in future project management structures (Graphic: BAAINBw S6)

Given the oft-mentioned inevitability of attacks and despite all measures still highly complex challenge of recognition and compensation of successful attacks, a useful and mission fulfillment of our ships should be nachdacht in addition, on alternative arrangements, in spite of (and during) a cyber-attack at least limited allow.

A corresponding state power is thus necessary not only for mechanical and electrical systems, but also for the digital systems on board and also for the IT in-use relevant technical equipment. IT should be encapsulated in critical areas and redundant. In addition, should an IT operate independently, away from the overall automation are being considered within the meaning of Back to the Roots for selected plants. Measures to staying power increase and emergency procedures could therefore not include programmable and thus can not be manipulated IT hardware, thus ensuring a non-variable basic operation and allow a permanent basis in control of all critical systems.

Here new, unconventional solutions are certainly just as simple, reliable approaches demand.


In summary, it can be established that the creation and maintenance of cyber security represent a highly complex and time-consuming task; This also applies to the German Navy and its procurement areas of the Federal Office for equipment, information technology and use of the Bundeswehr (BAAINBw). But there is urgent need for action. The current path would be considered Entrepreneurial lead (without consideration of this need for action) sooner or later in a bankruptcy. And from military-operational point of view it can not be the goal of ending before or at the beginning of a future confrontation in the Cyber-off and certainly take no significant threats to the crews tacitly accepted.

Given the scale and importance of the issue it alone are not effective, but this issue is jointly and synergistically to address the bond between the Navy, procurement and industry to find common answers. The intensification of international cooperation seems worthwhile. Other coalition navies already testing systems that are likely to be for the German Navy of interest. This certainly includes advancing the issues BSI Baseline Protection illustrated, comprehensive cyber resilience, cyber-damage prevention, but mainly staying power.

In a first step, the subject would perceive itself as a key area of ​​action.

As part of this bill should in upcoming projects to the new risks thereby be taken that, for example, a management in place that meets the featured cyber risks to the project through time-consuming and demand proper perception of the subject and gradually urgently needed our high-tech naval units with the cyber security and IT state power provides.

Authors: Chief Technical Government Director, Dipl. Ing. Marco Bork is group leader Marine management systems in BAAINBw, Commander Jan-Peter Giesecke is Head of Teaching and Training Division Commander training at the Navy Engineering School in Parow.