90% of the world’s goods travel by sea and so if you want to know what issues may affect the future of businesses around the world, looking at the risks and threats in the maritime domain is probably a good start.

I had the pleasure of joining a panel and speaking at the Maritime Information Warfare Conference to share the importance of trust in and amongst the sea lanes. Geopolitical risks abound - from piracy to nation state posturing - and shipping and large commodity companies have consistently found themselves in the crosshairs.

One of the examples cited was the NotPetya cyber-attack upon Maersk in Ukraine that resulted in over $200m worth of damage to their network; the only saving grace being a server that had already gone down before the attack in Africa (that held an up to date copy of the network). A clear and very present example of companies inadvertently becoming embroiled in matters not of their making.

Advanced technologies are finding their way into criminal networks and this also poses significant risks and challenges. A recent MIT Review article highlighting the use of sophisticated GPS spoofing in Shanghai has academic experts baffled as to how multiple ships, in a wide area, can be placed 3 miles away from their actual location. The implications of this could extend well beyond shipping and could significantly disrupt rail, banking and personal mapping apps – causing chaos.   

Amongst the fascinating conversations about exquisite technology ranging from drones to 5G it struck me that much of the messaging of Western Navies, if not all of NATO, focuses on their ability to counter whatever malign or adversarial messaging or activity they face.

Often, this is also the case when dealing with a business’s response to a crisis. The urge to counter and attack the false or misleading story draws many a communications professional - like a moth to a flame.

This approach can work for those stories or statements that are factually inaccurate and open to challenge and recourse. But in the world of democratised media, where anyone can create and start publishing salacious or outright false accusations, to engage is to become participatory in the lie.

A far better approach is to contest in order to counter. To move the conversation to the ground of your choosing about a topic your audiences and key stakeholders genuinely care about. By contesting a topic, you can control the narrative and position the situation far better than if you were to simply react to a malign actor.