As infrastructure keeps coming under attack from Chinese hackers, Casey pens new bill addressing blind spots for US ports

22 May 2024- U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee members Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced legislation to protect American port infrastructure from cybersecurity threats posed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including espionage. The Secure Smartports Act would require the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) to develop and implement a plan to help companies and port systems safeguard against the risks of using Chinese technology that the PRC could use to spy on, and potentially take control of our critical infrastructure and supply chains.

“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,” said Senator Casey. “This bill will ring the alarm on Chinese cyber threats and help protect our critical shipping infrastructure.”

“With oceans on either side of us, America has always been an oceangoing country with an economy that’s fueled by trade,” said Senator Kelly. “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.”

The United States’ integrated network of ports, terminals, vessels, waterways, and land-side connections that constitute the Nation’s Marine Transportation System (MTS) relies on digital systems to enable their operations, including ship navigation, the movement of cargo, engineering, safety, and security monitoring. These systems have revolutionized the maritime shipping industry and American supply chains by enhancing the speed and efficiency of moving goods to market, but the increasing digital interconnectedness of our economy and supply chains have also introduced vulnerabilities that, if exploited, could have cascading impacts on America’s ports, the economy, and everyday hard-working Americans.

This legislation would direct NCSC to alert the U.S. port and shipping industry to the threat of PRC-backed shipping and logistics infrastructure, technology, and software to U.S. supply chains to help protect against them. As the agency whose mission is to “provide counterintelligence outreach to U.S. private sector entities at risk of foreign intelligence penetration,” it’s critical to our national and economic security that NCSC work with ports and shipping companies to understand the risks of using Chinese technology.