Ports worldwide are transitioning towards shore power and capabilities of cold ironing. This brings new risks in cyber threats that target these port charging networks. Electrification of ports holds immense significance for reducing environmental impact but the increased complexity gives way to interceptability. Cyber resilience or cyber security for shore power stands to be key in this situation. Furthermore, the measures can fight against disrupting port operations, causing blackouts, or damaging electrical infrastructure. 

But what are the measures that you can apply you ask? This article will examine the risks, best practices, strategies, and more. So, let’s get started.

Unique Cyber Risks Facing Shore Power Infrastructure 

The shore power systems stand to be automated and well-connected today. So, the new vulnerabilities should be well known to know what measures are needed in different areas. Let us see the situations where intruders can attack easily. 

Increased Network Connectivity

Shore power and cold ironing work on a well-established connection between ships and electrical networks on the shoreside. Moreover, multiple power cables link vessels to port charging networks at berth. So, this allows cyber attacks from the ship systems to vulnerable port networks. Additionally, a lack of segmentation of the network could easily allow malware. As a result, ports need network segregation, firewalls, and oversight of network traffic between ships and shore power systems.

A mix of Legacy and Modern Equipment

The infrastructure of shore power has a combination of state-of-the-art and legacy equipment. It ranges from electrical equipment that is aging to smart meters. This makes the infrastructure lack security features and creates vulnerability to exploitation of their operations. As a result, the cybersecurity of ports should assess all the systems.

Increasing Automation and Remote Control 

Operation optimization stands to be the focal point for ports. Moreover, this optimization includes the use of automation, remote monitoring, and more. The elements are effective however they lack authentication controls and encryption on remote access points. So, this is where intruders tap into supervisory control systems and sabotage or hijack operations. As a result, a proper analysis of the cyber risks, authentication safeguards, layered protections, and more are important.

We have now seen where the risks can emerge when it comes to ports and harbours but what are the type of threats that are there in these situations? Let’s find that out:

Insider Threats

Insider threats are the types of threats that are hardest to catch and fight against. Additionally, both purposeful and inadvertent security breaches could be caused by workers, subcontractors, or outside suppliers with special access to shore power networks. Additionally, post-access credential misuse by malicious insiders can allow access to critical systems to sabotage operations or steal data.

Operational Technology Attacks

Industrial control system malware tailored to shore power equipment allows adversaries to manipulate operations and destroy physical infrastructure once they infiltrate OT networks. Wiper malware designed to disable shore power management software, firmware Trojans, and code-level attacks against control system APIs are all methods used to severely impact OT systems.

Data Theft and Breaches

Attackers often steal sensitive data that can be sold to competitors or leaked publicly for financial gain or to damage reputation. Moreover, energy usage, customer billing data, and payment information are particularly lucrative data sets targeted at shore power networks.

Supply Chain Compromise

Third-party providers and supply chains become major targets for attackers. It helps them to infiltrate the industrial environment easily. Furthermore, malware injected into shore power equipment software/firmware or lack of security controls during vendor remote access poses major risks. So, ports need visibility and control measures applied to the entire shore power vendor ecosystem.

Now that we know about the cyber threats in detail, let us move on and look at the practices to ensure cyber resilience for shore power. 

Cyber Resilience For Shore Power: How to Secure Systems?

Effective cyber resilience encompasses a range of security strategies and controls tailored to the unique risks facing port charging networks. Here are key recommended practices:

Perform Threat Modeling

Conduct architectural analysis and threat modeling on shore power systems. It helps to identify vulnerabilities and attack vectors. Moreover, quantify risks and use this to prioritize security investments based on likelihood and impact. Additionally, update models as new assets and threats emerge.

Utilize Unidirectional Gateways

Install unidirectional gateways to physically separate control networks from untrusted zones. These devices allow data transfer in only one direction to limit cyber pathways between secure and insecure areas. Moreover, it is critical for isolating shore power OT systems.

Deploy Deception Technology

Distribute decoy systems mimicking real shore power components across networks. Furthermore, this diverts attackers away from critical operational assets. Deception also provides threat intelligence when attackers interact with traps.

Perform Penetration Testing

Conduct controlled cyber attacks on shore power networks to uncover security gaps. Moreover, combine network, application, and social engineering penetration testing. It is useful both for improving defenses and testing response capabilities.

Implement Centralized Logging

Send shore power system logs to a central SIEM platform for consolidated monitoring, alerting, and incident investigation. Moreover, correlate events across port charging networks to uncover linked threats.

Develop Cyber Playbooks

Detail response procedures in cyber playbooks tailored to shore power incidents. It includes ransomware, data theft, OT malware, insider threats, and safety compromises. It also speeds up decision-making and coordination during cyber events.

Utilize OTA Updates

Leverage over-the-air (OTA) capabilities on shore power devices. This is for prompt remote firmware updates that patch vulnerabilities without physical intervention. Furthermore, it is critical for boosting the resilience of field assets.

Conduct Ongoing Audits

Perform recurring audits of configurations, vulnerabilities, controls, and system architectures on all shore power cyber assets. Moreover, identify and remediate gaps to continually harden defenses.

Validate Backup and Recovery

Test restores from isolated backups during controlled outages to confirm recovery workflows. Moreover, periodically re-evaluate backup storage locations, retention duration, and encryption strengths.

A continuous focus on resilience through measures like these will help secure port charging networks against an array of cyber threats.

To Sum Up

As ports invest in electrification infrastructure, they must make corresponding investments in cybersecurity and resilience measures. Though securing these complex shore power networks is challenging, ports can stay on top of emerging cyber threats by engaging experts, following best practices, and continuously auditing defenses. With proactive planning and vigilant maintenance of cyber safeguards, ports can confidently charge ahead with shore power capabilities while keeping port charging networks secure from modern cyber attacks.

Join industry leaders in discussing securing port shore power infrastructure and other elements of the maritime energy transition at the Net Zero Ports & Harbours Summit on March 14-15, 2024 in Barcelona, Spain. Experts in shore power, electrification, port cybersecurity, and alternative fuels will be together at the event. So, the chance to learn about the newest techniques and technology for creating sustainable, resilient ports of the future will be provided to attendees. Reserve your spot now!

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