Biden administration moves to boost cybersecurity at US ports to protect against Chinese hackers

A shipping container ship sailing next to a sea of ones and zeroes
(Image credit: Shutterstock / videotrinkets)

The Biden administration is looking to enhance the cyber resilience of US ports as key infrastructure continues to face attacks from Chinese cyber groups.

A new executive order looks to give the Coast Guard more power to respond to cyberattacks, while also setting provisions to enhance the cybersecurity of the maritime sector.

Alongside these powers, a further $20 billion has been set aside to be invested in US port infrastructure over the next five years.

Shoring up against waves of attacks

As part of the new regulations, the Coast Guard will now be able to determine where vessels that present a cyber threat to the port can go, while also being able to inspect the vessels and port facilities. There will also be a baseline standard introduced for port cybersecurity and ports that do not meet this standard will be required to improve.

A number of US security officials had sounded the alarm on the potential vulnerabilities in the ports, due to Volt Typhoon previously targeting several key facilities across the maritime industry.

According to Cyberscoop, Chinese companies own almost 80% of the cranes used to move shipping containers between boats and shore, with the Coast Guard issuing a separate non-public directive that means the cranes must be manufactured in line with several new security requirements.

During a briefing on the executive order, Rear Adm. Jay Vann, commander of the US Coast Guard Cyber Command said, “America’s system of ports and waterways accounts for over $5.4 trillion of our nation’s annual economic activity, and our ports serve as a gateway for over 90% of all overseas trade.” 

“Any disruption to the [maritime transportation system], whether manmade or natural, physical or in cyberspace has the potential to cause cascading impacts to our domestic or global supply chains.”

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Benedict Collins
Staff Writer (Security)

Benedict Collins is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro covering privacy and security. Benedict is mainly focused on security issues such as phishing, malware, and cyber criminal activity, but also likes to draw on his knowledge of geopolitics and international relations to understand the motivations and consequences of state-sponsored cyber attacks. Benedict has a MA in Security, Intelligence and Diplomacy, alongside a BA in Politics with Journalism, both from the University of Buckingham.