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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

PERSPECTIVE: Modern Port Operations Must Consider Cybersecurity from the Start

Increasing cyber capabilities will be key to protecting critical maritime transportation infrastructure from digital strikes.

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.

Zero-Trust Security

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.

Don Leyn and Andrew Stewart
Don Leyn is Cisco’s Ports & Terminals and Mining Specialist for North America, with over 10 years of experience in providing industrial wireless networks. Don began his journey in wireless networks at KNS Communications Consultants based in Englewood, Colorado, where he honed his skills in delivering wireless communications to mining, ports & terminals and other harsh industrial environments around the world. Don brings a skillset in understanding the business of ports & terminals and mining on a global scale, having worked at over 57 projects around the world. One area where Don has worked hard is aiding in developing a wireless network supporting Autonomous and Tele-Remote solutions for ports & terminals, mining, and heavy industry. Don joined Fluidmesh Networks in 2019 as Director of Mining, Ports & Terminal Automation for North America. Cisco acquired Fluidmesh in 2020, where Don became a Specialist in Mining, Ports & Terminals for Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul (formerly Fluidmesh). His focus has been on supporting Cisco’s efforts to provide innovative technology to the ports & terminals and mining industries. Andrew D. Stewart, CAPT, USN (Ret.) is a Senior National Security and Government Strategist in Cybersecurity at Cisco, where he implements strategies to support innovative cybersecurity and AI/ML solutions across the Federal Government. He previously served as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (N3) and Maritime Operations Center Director (MOC-D) at Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. TENTH Fleet. He also served as the Commanding Officer and Program Manager at the Navy Cyber Warfare Development Group (NCWDG). He is a graduate of the Sellinger School of Business, Loyola University Maryland, the Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, CA, the United States Naval Academy, the National Defense University, and the Naval War College.

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