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Thursday, June 20th, 2024

New bill would require U.S. Intelligence agencies to develop cyber safeguards for ports

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With the introduction of the Secure Smartports Act, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) seek to convince their fellow lawmakers of the danger to U.S. ports posed by Chinese cyberattacks and intrusion.

“Every day we don’t understand the risks of relying on Chinese technology is a day when the Chinese Communist Party can compromise the ports and infrastructure we need to move essential goods throughout our Nation,” Casey said. Together with Kelly, Casey is a member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. “This bill will ring the alarm on Chinese cyber threats and help protect our critical shipping infrastructure.”

The United States has an integrated network of ports, terminals, vessels, waterways, and land-side connections, which comprise the Marine Transportation System (MTS). That system, like most things nowadays, relies on digital systems for everything from operations to cargo movements, engineering, and security monitoring. While those systems have helped advance the maritime shipping industry and build up supply chains, they could also prove an Achilles heel, according to the two senators.

“With oceans on either side of us, America has always been an oceangoing country with an economy that’s fueled by trade,” Kelly said. “This bill takes critical steps to protect our ports and maritime system from cyber vulnerabilities presented by Chinese-government-backed technology that could threaten our economy and our security.”

Accordingly, the bill would require the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) to take action. It would need to develop and pursue a plan to assist companies and port systems in protecting against risks posed by Chinese technology. That technology, they noted, could be used to spy on or even seize control of critical infrastructure and supply chains.

Going forward, the NCSC would have to alert the industry to any threats posed by Chinese-backed shipping and logistic infrastructure, technology and software. In this way, it represents another front in the ongoing federal pivot toward treating China as an adversary.