Executive Order Aimed At Protecting Ports From Cyberattack


President Biden signed an executive order on February 21, to strengthen cybersecurity in the nation’s ports. Port security is the latest focus of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed in 2021, with $20 billion going to port security. The executive order will set regulations on how to guard against cyberattacks and give the U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction to respond to cyberattacks.

There are over 300 ports in the U.S. that contribute $5.4 trillion to the U.S. economy and employ about 31 million. A cyberattack on a major port would be devastating to the supply chain and disrupt the economy.

In 2021, Darkside, a sophisticated Russian hacking operation shut down the Colonial Pipeline for almost a week and demanded $4.4 million in ransom. The shutdown caused fuel shortages and price hikes on gasoline products in the southeastern part of the U.S. Colonial paid the ransom in Bitcoin and the FBI later recovered most of the money. This event highlighted the need for advanced cybersecurity within the nation’s infrastructure.

Cyberattacks shut down ports in four Australian cities in November 2023. The ports were operated by DP World which handles about 40% of Australia’s maritime cargo. Hackers accessed employee data and operations continued after it was determined that there was no further damage to their computer systems.

Another measure to improve port security is to stop using the giant ship-to-shore cranes that are made in China. Currently, 80% of the cranes in U.S. ports are made in China.

In January, the Chinese government sponsored a malware attack against civilian infrastructure that was disrupted. This emphasized the need to replace the Chinese-made cranes with cranes made in the U.S.

This move not only safeguards the U.S. economy but also the military. The U.S. military uses the same cranes for ship-to-shore movement of vehicles and equipment, which means the Chinese cranes could have national security implications.