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Cyberattack thwarted at Port Houston

‘No operational data or systems were impacted’ in attempted hack

Port Houston was the target in August of suspected nation-state hackers, according to cybersecurity officials. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Port Houston was the target of suspected “nation-state” hackers in August, according to officials.

Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told a Senate committee on Thursday that hackers had targeted the Texas port.

“We worked with the U.S. Coast Guard on a vulnerability at the Port of Houston and found out about this hack [involving a password-management program],” Easterly said during the “National Cybersecurity Strategy: Protection of Federal and Critical Infrastructure Systems” Senate committee hearing.

“We work with our FBI partners and our Coast Guard partners to better understand that vulnerability and then to be able to get that information out to see whether in fact we saw the same vulnerability across the federal cyber ecosystem and in our critical infrastructure partners.” 

Easterly told the committee she believed a “nation-state actor” was behind the hack, but declined to say which one.

Port Houston issued a statement last week saying it had successfully defended against an attempted hack and “no operational data or systems were impacted.”

“Port Houston followed its facilities security plan in doing so, as guided under the Maritime Transportation Security Act,” port officials said Thursday.

Port Houston comprises 25 miles of the 52-mile-long channel and is a federal waterway. It is composed of more than 200 private terminals and eight public terminals. The Port of Houston Authority (Port Houston) owns and operates the eight public terminals, including two container terminals.

The U.S. Coast Guard attended a Port of Houston commission meeting Tuesday and presented an award of merit to Chris Wolski, Port Houston’s chief information security officer, for “his actions and continued diligence, expertise and contributions concerning protecting Port Houston and the Houston Ship Channel overall on matters related to cybersecurity,” according to officials.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]