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Port Report: Los Angeles looks at how to head off cyberattacks

Faced with new entry points for bad actors, Port of Los Angeles wants to see how it can secure itself digitally.

(Photo: Port of Los Angeles)

The Port of Los Angeles is a test bed for the latest in logistics technology, and a target for the threats facing that technology.

To stave off those threats, the largest U.S. seaport is seeking bids for a “turn-key” cybersecurity center, “a first-of-its-kind solution that will help to reduce the port-wide risk of a cyber incident that could disrupt the flow of cargo at the Port of Los Angeles.” 

As described in the request for proposal, the center will look much like it would be expected to look like. Housed in a harbor department building, the center would have a video wall with six monitors, video teleconferencing systems, two internet service connections, back-up power and other resiliency measures, and four workstations. 

The center would be staffed at all hours by employees that have certifications from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium

Lance Kaneshiro, head of information technology for the port, said the executive team “saw a significant benefit to developing a way for the independent terminal operators to identify cyberattacks, mitigate and isolate them, and ensure the efficiency of the Port of Los Angeles.”

Kaneshiro said the new center was not intended to replace any of the existing cybersecurity systems at the various marine terminals and other facilities. Rather it will be a “system of systems” that allows them to share threat indicators as quickly as possible with marine, rail and trucking companies.  

“It’s not intrusive to the existing systems,” Kaneshiro said. Any data shared with other port operations about attacks will be anonymized so the original source will not disclosed.

Los Angeles’ port and its tenants are  embarking on multiple digital projects, making it all the more vulnerable to cyberattacks. The port is using the GE Port Optimizer to provide online access to terminal and container information to trucking and logistics companies. Executive Director Gene Seroka has suggested that chassis in the port be tracked wirelessly to provide better inventory management. 

APM Terminals is also set to expand its use of wireless technology with the start of its automated straddle carrier project at Pier 400. Fenix Marine plans to tap third-party data and artificial intelligence systems to speed container flow through its Pier 300 site.

The projects come as civilian infrastructure is becoming a growing target for hackers. In response to rising concerns about the threat of cyberattacks from Russia, China, or Iran, the National Security Agency said it will create a new directorate on cybersecurity

The port is, of course, no stranger to cyber attacks. Liner operator Maersk (Nasdaq OMX: MAER.B) was one of 7,000 companies attacked by the NotPetya malware in 2017. The attack, which originally targeted Maersk’s Copenhagen headquarters, forced APM’s Pier 400 to close for five days.

Thomas Gaszi, the Chief of Los Angeles Port Police, said that the cybersecurity center was borne out of discussions with terminals and others that do business with the port about their own experiences in dealing with cyberattacks.

“Some of the industries in the working group had some events that were concerning to them, Gaszi said with elaborating. 

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