Study: Cybersecurity at Ports Insufficient

America's largest commercial ports have failed to shore up defenses against potential cyber attacks, a new study contends, raising concerns about the vulnerability of computer networks that help move energy, foodstuff and other goods to market.
July 3, 2013

America's largest commercial ports have failed to shore up defenses against potential cyber attacks, a new study contends, raising concerns about the vulnerability of computer networks that help move energy, foodstuff and other goods to market.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Joseph Kramek, who spent a year as a fellow at the Brookings Institution, examined some of the nation's most heavily used ports: Los Angeles and Long Beach; Baltimore; Houston and Beaumont in Texas; and Vicksburg, Miss., on the Mississippi River.

"The research shows that the level of cyber security awareness and culture in U.S. port facilities is relatively low," Kramek wrote.

Potential attackers "could be someone trying to cause mischief, a criminal gang or, the worst case, a nation-state actor," Kramek said in a telephone interview.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — the country's largest and second largest, respectively — have taken some defensive steps. Los Angeles used a $1.6-million grant to protect its computer networks from hackers, and Long Beach spent $35 million to build a secure communications infrastructure.

But neither has done all it should, Kramek wrote.

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