The concerning level of shipping congestion off the U.S. coast, along with recent global supply chain disruptions, is evidence that U.S. ports are in desperate need of technological modernization. Ports are the nexus in complex supply chains, yet many of the largest dockyards in the world continue to struggle with disruptions and fluctuations in volume and congestion.
Connectivity is essential to modernizing our ports and preparing for increased supply chain demand. Connected devices like sensors, cameras, and navigation systems stand to enhance everything from unloading time to equipment uptime for an industry that contributes over $150 billion to the nation’s economic growth annually, according to a study for the Transportation Institute.
The resounding message is clear: port and terminal operators, who are undertaking much-needed digital modernization efforts, must simultaneously implement improved cybersecurity capabilities that are designed and “built-in” to the industrial network infrastructure from the start.
The Connectivity Era for Modern Ports
By connecting more equipment, devices, people, and applications, in addition to embracing greater digitization, global port operators are realizing improved results – including faster vessel loading and unloading, safer working conditions, and greater operational efficiencies. With access to critical infrastructure improvement funding, port and terminal operators can pursue essential modernization funds while concurrently improving their cybersecurity and operational resiliency.
While every sector is a potential target for cyber threats, government leaders continue to underscore the importance of the maritime transportation industry as a critical driver of the U.S. economy and the need to protect the sector from bad actors. CISA Director Jen Easterly recently noted the increasing cyber threat to the industry, which underpins a considerable amount of U.S. business – enabling trillions of dollars of commerce each year and simultaneously supporting every other industry sector. Maritime ports could be a desirable target to cyber criminals seeking to maximize economic impact. In turn, securing maritime trade should be considered crucial to the nation’s economic security.
Responding to the need for implementing cybersecurity capabilities goes in tandem with implementing digital business transformation and modernization. Today, through enhanced secure and increasingly mobile connectivity, the data from modern applications are what keeps shipping containers moving efficiently and safely at a port. The necessary data flows and supporting applications have moved closer to “the edge” – closer to the industrial devices, terminal equipment, and users. This operational digitization at the edge enables applications to be more relevant at the point where the data has greatest value and, simultaneously, the total integration of all the data provides greater insights and value across the whole span of a port/terminal’s operations and beyond.
In today’s digitally enabled world, yesterday’s old security perimeter is gone, and adopting a least-privileged access approach to data, or a zero-trust philosophy, is an absolute necessity. In order to successfully modernize operations, a foundational network infrastructure with a zero-trust cybersecurity philosophy built into the design is a necessity to simultaneously digitize and secure operations in ports and terminals.
Maritime transportation sector operators are increasingly enhancing their secure wireless connectivity to respond to Terminal Operating Systems (TOS) application demands and terminal autonomous solutions to move data with ultra-low latency, high throughput, high reliability, along with seamless handoffs that support mobility needs across an expansive and complex radio frequency environment.
Delivering effective cybersecurity for critical infrastructure requires a deliberate effort across any organization’s approach to bring together people, processes, and technology. An integrated networking and security portfolio helps the maritime transportation sector through this journey – delivering the best technology which underpins efficient processes and enables the sector’s personnel with the tools necessary to realize all the possibilities of modern port operations.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email Editor@Hstoday.us.