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Biden order seeks to improve US port cybersecurity

U.S. President Biden delivers remarks at an event in Culver City

By Christopher Bing

(Reuters) - The Biden administration on Wednesday announced measures to bolster cybsecurity at U.S. ports including expanded responsibilities for the Coast Guard and investment in domestic production of cranes.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order outlining the measures for ports, which are the main entry point for foreign goods and handle trillions of dollars in trade per year.

The U.S. Coast Guard will get powers to respond to cyberattacks against maritime infrastructure including requiring operators to share information about incidents and threats. The post of national maritime security director will also be established.

The order calls for $20 billion in investment over five years in port cranes with plans to restart domestic production of cranes for the first time in 30 years, the administration said.

Senior administration officials said most equipment that moves cargo off ships in the U.S. today comes from China and is controlled with Chinese software.

Several former U.S. intelligence officials have voiced concern that cranes made by Chinese companies could be used for surveillance inside the U.S. - a claim other experts reject as nonsensical.

A 2023 report by the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration said American ports are vulnerable to hackers because of the many contractors and stakeholders who work there and their diversity of information and operational technology systems.

In 2021, the Port of Houston was inflitrated by "suspected foreign government-backed hackers" who, if the breach had not been detected, would have had remote access to the port's network, according to CNN.

(Reporting by Christopher Bing; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)