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America's Biggest Economic Artery Brought to its Knees by a Virus

America's Biggest Economic Artery Brought to its Knees by a Virus

One of the main concerns of these days for US security officials is to provide the country’s economic arteries security against cyber-attacks and manipulation of foreigners. As one of the largest exporters and importers of goods in the world, the country has built a powerful naval fleet, and in fact, has invested heavily in its technological development. Extensive investments and efforts to bring technology to this critical infrastructure in the world have resulted in widespread vulnerabilities and hackers have been thinking of abusing it.

America’s port system is an industrial engine that drives much of our economic success,” said Michael McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. “Currently, US seaports support 23 million American jobs and 26 percent of our economy. These ports will only continue to remain busy as our trade volume is expected to quadruple by 2030. We must make sure they are not susceptible to attacks from our enemies. Unfortunately, America’s adversaries are constantly looking for ways to strike our country with cyber attacks. As our port systems increasingly benefit from new technology and advanced computer systems, they also find themselves in the crosshairs of international hackers.”

Why American ports are of prime importance for the country?

Ports in the United States, like many other countries in the world, have become one of the most important critical economic arteries, and a large volume of trade is carried on through its ports. The issue has added to the importance of this key infrastructure in the United States and made it require a special consideration. Perhaps a reference to the records of cyber ttacks on these ports could somehow explain the depth of the security disasters.

Last year, the Los Angeles port function was interrupted as a result of a cyberattack on Maersk, the world's largest container shipping company. Other business units of this company throughout the world, including Ukraine, India and Australia, suffered from this cyber-attack as well.

Although the effect of the virus caused the port's largest terminal to lose its automation for several days and be manually controlled, it is worth mentioning some experts claim that the attack was not aimed directly at the port of Los Angeles. The virus, called Petya, led to the Los Angeles port's shutdown, causing the loss of a large amount of data worth nearly $ 300 million, according to the chief executive of the port.
Cybersecurity experts believed that one of the most important ways to increase security and reduce security challenges facing harbors and transportation centers was to increase cooperation with the private sector and to participate in cyber security issues.

Indeed, American security agencies have taken several actions in deploying widespread equipment for infrastructure security issues, but even this infrastructure has increased the vulnerability of ports in the country.
Another weakness of its ports against cyberattacks was the special surveillance equipment that the United States has been using to control the entry of goods in the country. For example, X-ray machines or various surveillance equipment are one of the sources of malware entry to port command and control systems.

According to one of the most reliable US seaports director X-ray monitors allow the Customs and Border Protection Authority to examine nearly 100% of all sea-level container loads for the presence of radioactive or nuclear material. Further, the detection and display systems enable the agency to handle loads, such as sea containers, without opening them physically or disassembling them.

One of the vulnerabilities this equipment faces is their manipulation to completely disable the scanned equipment or, in general, shut them down.

Of course, some security experts also believe that the only entrance of equipment to ports is not enough to increase security plans, and there should be proper budgeting for training topics and increased cyber literacy.

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