Biden signs order aimed at protecting U.S. ports from cyberattacks

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday aimed at boosting the Department of Homeland Security's ability to respond to maritime cybersecurity threats.

U.S. security is endangered by “persistent and increasingly sophisticated malicious cyber campaigns against the United States,” Biden's order said.

Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, told reporters Tuesday that the order would give the U.S. Coast Guard the authority to respond to malicious cyber activity and require ships and port facilities to shore up their cybersecurity and report cyber incidents.

The Coast Guard will also issue a notice of proposed rules for minimum cybersecurity requirements to address and manage cyberthreats at U.S. ports, she said.

Neuberger added that it would now be a “requirement rather than a request” for ships and port facilities to report cybersecurity threats and attacks. The reports must be made to the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Coast Guard, the order said.

Officials said Tuesday that the order would allow the Coast Guard to take charge in instances of cyber threats. Rear Adm. John Vann, who heads the Coast Guard Cyber Command, said the measure would give the captains of ports “clear authority to take action in the face of cyber threats.”

That includes controlling the movement of ships that present a known or suspected cyber threat, requiring facilities to correct cyber conditions that could endanger port security, and inspecting vessels and waterfront facilities, including their cyber systems and networks, Vann said.

The order also would empower the Coast Guard commandant to "prescribe measures to prevent, detect, assess and remediate an actual or threatened cyber incident," he said.

The Biden administration plans to put $20 billion into port infrastructure over the next five years, Neuberger said. She added that U.S. ports, which are are the main point of cargo entry, employ 31 million Americans and contribute $5.4 trillion dollars to the country's economy.

"The continuity of their operations has a clear and direct impact on the success of our country, our economy and our national security," she said.

Wednesday's actions "are clear examples of the president's work to invest in America, secure the country's supply chain and strengthen cybersecurity of our nation's critical infrastructure," Neuberger said.

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