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Biden admin, ports prepare for cyberattacks as US infrastructure targeted

Biden admin, ports prepare for cyberattacks as US infrastructure targeted

 


Cranes stand idle while waiting for a ship to dock to remove cargo containers at the Port of Los Angeles on March 14, 2024.

Genaro Molina | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

A top Biden cybersecurity official urged the nation's ports in a joint call Wednesday to encrypt their data, quickly patch any vulnerabilities in critical systems and have a well-trained cyber team as hacks targeting major American infrastructure are increasing.

Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cybersecurity and emerging technologies, cited President Biden's February signing of an executive order to strengthen the cybersecurity of U.S. ports. The nation's port system is the primary entry point for commerce, employs 31 million people and generates more than $5.4 trillion for the U.S. economy.

“More needs to be done at the ports and in the supply chain,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, who has fought for years for a strong federal cybersecurity plan. “The decree has elevated the debate.”

The first U.S. seaport to establish a Cybersecurity Operations Center (CSOC) in 2014, the Port of Los Angeles, according to Seroka, fought off the highest number of recorded cyberattacks against the port in 2023 as the CSOC stopped 750 million cyberattacks. intrusion attempts.

In a 2023 report, the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration warned that U.S. ports are vulnerable to cyberattacks due to the multiple stakeholders involved in port operations, with identified risks related to access to facilities, at the terminal headquarters, to operational technological systems such as communications systems. and cargo handling equipment, positioning, navigation and timing services, which would impact ship movements and complex logistics systems at port facilities, and the sharing of network connections between ships and ports and USB storage devices, among other technologies.

Neuberger, who advises Biden on cybersecurity, digital innovation and emerging technologies, noted that the executive order gave the Coast Guard the ability to respond to attacks, instituted mandatory reporting of cyber threats and turned away vessels that could constitute a danger to national security.

One of the main concerns of the Biden administration and the executive order is the safety of Chinese-made cranes. More than 80% of all cranes operating at U.S. ports are manufactured in China and some of the software used to operate these cranes is installed in China, which could compromise crane safety, raising fears of a “horse of Troy” for espionage. or control ports remotely.

Neuberger noted that ports can tap funds from the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed in 2021 to support the construction of U.S. transportation cranes by a U.S. subsidiary of Japanese industrial company Mitsui.

State-Linked Hackers Attack U.S. Physical Operations

Foreign hackers are increasingly targeting U.S. infrastructure in vital services, from transportation to the food supply and health care. In February, the FBI warned Congress that Chinese hackers had penetrated deep into America's cyber infrastructure in an attempt to cause damage. FBI Director Christopher Wray said Chinese government hackers are targeting the country's water treatment plans, power grid, transportation systems and other critical infrastructure. United States

Google's cybersecurity company Mandiant released a report on Wednesday that included analysis of a Russian-linked hacking group and a January attack on a water filtration plant in a small Texas town , Muleshoe, where a water tank overflowed following a cyber intrusion.

“The city may be small, but it is located in a dry part of Texas and is near Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico,” said Adam Isles, Chertoff Group cybersecurity manager, describing the the location of the water filtration plant as “concerning.”

In November last year, US officials said Iran was behind a cyberattack on a water plant in Pennsylvania. Biden administration officials recently warned the nation's governors about the threat to water systems. “The water is one of the least mature in terms of safety,” Isles said.

The American Association of Port Authorities, which lobbies on behalf of the nation's major container ports, has said in the past that there is no evidence to support remote monitoring claims regarding cyber vulnerabilities cranes made in China, calling the comments “sensational”.

When asked for an update on the review of the more than 200 cranes, Neuberger referred CNBC to the Coast Guard. In an email to CNBC, a Coast Guard spokesperson said that as of a few weeks ago, 92 of the more than 200 cranes made in China had been evaluated.

Public comment on the executive order rules began on February 21 and will close on April 22.

Isles said it is important to identify critical security and business systems at the nation's ports.

“We cannot protect everything, so we need to identify the high-value assets present in the port,” he said. “You have to identify what is essential to the operation of a port or what is essential to an adversary.”

Isles says that once assets are identified, you need to have ongoing diagnostics of operations and networks verifying their sustainability. “We must assume that these systems will be compromised at some point and we must be concerned not only with their minimum operational capacity, but also with their resilience and survivability. This helps achieve an informed cybersecurity offense defense,” he said. Deterrence is just as important, Isles emphasized. “Violators must be held accountable.”

The tenth anniversary of the Port of Los Angeles CSCO will take place in September. CSOC currently monitors the port's technology environment to prevent and detect cyber incidents, and it became the first port to achieve ISO 27001 information security management certification in 2015.

Activity at the Port of Los Angeles is picking up, with its first quarter performance and March 2023 container activity released Wednesday, showing a 19% improvement in container volumes and eight consecutive monthly periods of growth.

Correction: The Port of Los Angeles stopped 750 million hacking attempts in 2023. Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misstated the number in the article text.

Sources

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2/ https://www.cnbc.com/2024/04/17/biden-admin-ports-prep-for-cyberattacks-as-us-infrastructure-targeted.html

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