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26th of September 2017

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Cybersecurity on the high seas, a growing threat to the super yacht industry

Earlier this year, several national newspapers released an exposé on a growing threat to the super yachting industry: hacking. One article states the apparent ease cybercriminals had in taking over a super yacht, with one hacker mooring up and taking complete control over a multimillion-dollar vessel in just a matter of hours.   

To outsiders, the super yacht world is one of luxury, one of wealthy individuals with the latest technology, brands and enviable lifestyles.   

Few see the side of super yachting concerned with business admin and money management. But, just like any other large vessel, super yachts are operated like a business. They require expert levels of management for each department, from the captain controlling the vessel, to the chef cooking the meals, to the management company and accountants balancing the books.  

Despite the composed image, super yacht owners, are at high risk of their sensitive data being exposed, from financial details to private emails and guest information. Owners are individuals with high-net worth and often people of interest, so therefore prime targets to hackers and fraudsters. But, the threat does not just come from external forces. Money and information can be leaked internally too, due to poor management, monitoring and handling. This is not always the crew’s fault as poor systems and insufficient technology can prevent staff from handling data, expenses and financial information correctly.   

Due to many high profile hacks involving large retailers, household brands and even government entities, most organisations frequently upgrade their software and best practice policies to align with new guidelines and reduce the threat of an attack. Inevitably, super yachts must now follow suit, taking steps to ensure each and every element of their craft is digitised in a secure way, meaning better protection against cybercriminals, fraudsters and hackers.  

One key issue with cyber-attacks is that often super yacht owners, like other businesses, do not consider or review their levels of security until after an attack has taken place. With every other element on these high-end machines fully protected with the latest technology, systems and security then expense management should follow suit and also be a luxury, time-saving service. Therefore, there needs to be a yachting industry-wide learning exercise which takes place when it comes to understanding the potential threats concerning cybersecurity and  the ways to avoid personal data and money getting into the hands of these cybercriminals. 

As recent global ransomware attacks have demonstrated, businesses should be aware of how to protect their systems against the growing threat which is causing billions of pounds worth of damage, but, it is important not to treat cybersecurity in isolation from other fraud and loss prevention needs. With super yachts being no exception to this rule.   

For example, expense management for super yachts is incredibly underserviced, with captains still reliant on manual methods of data entry which are inevitably prone to human error. Many captains depend on outdated systems, such as Excel, to keep track of expenses which can amount to billions each year. These largely manual systems do not securely encrypt the data, therefore if a super yacht is hacked fraudsters would have open access to this data.   

A major block for the digitisation of budget and expense management on board super yachts is the fact that, shockingly, no one has previously created an adequate software solution to beat the simple capabilities of Excel. Captains are still expected to spend hours locked away manually inputting data into Excel spreadsheets and chasing down receipts and invoices from their crew in order to accurately report financial details to the yacht’s owner.   

As with any form of manual data entry, these methods are extremely prone to human error and, when there are billions of pounds worth of expenses being entered, even just a slight error could cost an owner a serious amount of money.

That is why Voly believed in its vision for a mobile integrated SaaS application that allows real-time management of expenses offering greater accuracy than ever before, with the ability to scan a receipt and file it under a specific department meaning expenses are recorded instantly, a feature that has never been available previously saving captains endless hours of receipt chasing.   

Additionally, with the integrated crew card, which is provided via a partnership with AFEX, it means that captains are able to monitor their crews’ spending instantly in ways never seen before. Captains are provided with instantaneous records and reports which can be easily shared with the owner, yacht management companies and accountants alike.   

Voly is designed to reduce losses to poor financial governance and fraud, it does this by streamlining the administration of the cost of running a super yacht accurately and on the move. Further, Voly’s end-to-end encryption and two-factor authentication for log ins adds extra layers of security, preventing hackers accessing the system and being able to gain account and financial details.   

The SaaS promotes transparency, time management and accountability in a sector that currently sees millions of owner expenses passing through fragmented and antiquated processes. By instigating the latest technology, that enables transparency and accurate reporting, owners are able to actively track their money having more control over expenses and onboard spending.   

Also, upgrading expense management software from Excel to those that have encrypted data and two-factor authentication, are easy ways for owners to protect themselves against the growing threat of cyber-attacks and ensure their data is locked away from those who are not meant to access it. Users are offered further reassurance by the fact Voly’s server security is monitored by third party security scanning sites to detect any vulnerabilities and alert users. 

Voly’s levels of encryption, its time-saving capabilities for captains, instantaneous reports as well as monitoring and integrated crew app with prepaid card means Voly is the most efficient solution for the super yachting industry.    

To find out more about how Voly is making expense management more efficient, and preventing financial losses to fraud and poor governance, visit our website.

Jonathan Allbut, Head of Yachting at Voly 

Image Credit: TatianaMarcoux / Pixabay

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