Biden is increasing cybersecurity at US ports, where cyberattacks can be more devastating than storms

Biden is increasing cybersecurity at US ports, where cyberattacks can be more devastating than storms
Biden is increasing cybersecurity at US ports, where cyberattacks can be more devastating than storms

President Joe Biden signed an executive order and adopted a federal rule to better secure the nation’s ports from potential cyberattacks.

In order to improve the nation’s port security against potential cyberattacks, President Joe Biden signed an executive order and established a federal rule on Wednesday.

The administration is drafting a set of cybersecurity laws that port operators across the country must follow, similar to standardized safety regulations designed to avoid injury or damage to people and equipment.

“We want to ensure there are similar requirements for cyber, when a cyberattack can cause just as much, if not more, damage than a storm or another physical threat,” said Anne Neuberger, the White House’s deputy national security adviser.

Ports employ over 31 million people and contribute $5.4 trillion to the economy, but they may be exposed to ransomware or other types of cyberattacks, according to Neuberger. The standard set of standards is intended to help defend against this.

The new regulations are part of the federal government’s efforts to modernize the protection of key infrastructure such as electricity grids, ports, and pipelines, which are increasingly managed and controlled online, frequently remotely. There are no national guidelines governing how operators should protect against potential online assaults.

The threat is growing. Hostile action in cyberspace, ranging from eavesdropping to the installation of malware to infect and impair a country’s infrastructure, has become a characteristic of modern geopolitical competition.

For example, in 2021, the operator of the country’s major petroleum pipeline was forced to briefly suspend operations after falling victim to a ransomware assault, in which hackers hold a victim’s data or device hostage in exchange for payment. Colonial Pipeline paid $4.4 million to a Russia-based hacker outfit, but the Justice Department later recovered the majority of the funds.

Ports, too, are vulnerable. Last year, one of Australia’s largest port operators was forced to cease operations for three days due to a cyberattack.

According to Admiral John Vann, chief of the US Coast Guard’s cyber command, about 80% of the massive cranes used to lift and pull cargo off ships onto US terminals are imported from China and controlled remotely. This makes them vulnerable to attack, he said.

Late last month, US officials announced that they had blocked a state-sponsored Chinese effort to plant malware that might be used to harm civilian infrastructure. Vann stated that while officials pushed for stricter standards, they were concerned about the prospect of illegal behavior.

The new requirements, which will be subject to public comment, will be required of all port operators, and there will be enforcement actions if the standards are not met, though the officials did not specify what they would be. They require port operators to notify authorities if they have been targeted by a cyberattack. The steps also allow the Coast Guard, which oversees the nation’s ports, to respond to cyberattacks.

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