Keeping ports secure against modern dangers
By Amy Morin
Port security has become a complicated issue in today’s world. Terrorist attacks over the past decade have shown the importance of securing major ports.
However, the logistics and costs involved in ensuring the safety of ports have certainly made port security a major problem.
The role of ports in today’s world
Ports play an integral role in global economics. The United States has more than 300 sea and river ports and there are more than 700 worldwide ports that ship to the United States.
Security at the ports has been a widely debated topic with large cargo clearly making for a great target for a vast array of terrorist attacks.
Despite the potential terrorist threats though, port security has proven to be a difficult issue.
While some government officials have stated it is nearly impossible to secure the ports, others have said the consequences of not securing the ports could be disastrous.
One of the major complications with port security is that it requires the combined efforts of many agencies.
The Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection handle port security in the United States while local law enforcement and the FBI also play a role in protecting them.
Increased security measures require vessels to give 96 hours of notice prior to arriving at any U.S. port and there are also special rules for any vessels carrying potentially dangerous cargo.
Protection zones became another increased security measure with vessels required to stay clear of Navy ships. There are also protection zones around facilities, such as nuclear power plants, which could be potential targets.
Additionally, each port also has extra rules and security measures specific to that port.
The cost of inspecting all of the cargo that arrives in ports is very high. Also, the delay caused by inspecting all of the cargo is very costly.
However, proponents of increased security report that a terrorist attack would be more costly. Closing down a port, even for a few days, could cost the economy much more than preventing an attack.
When ports on the west coast of the United States closed due to labor-management disputes, it cost the United States a billion dollars a day, according to the book, “Port and Maritime Security: Background and Issues.” Proponents of increased security notes that a terrorist attack could shut down a major port for much longer, however.
Congress had passed a bill that stated all cargo must be scanned prior to leaving their ports and entering the United States but, currently, only containers that are viewed as “high-risk” are being screened.
In May of 2012, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, informed Congress that she was extending the timeline for screening cargo at foreign ports because the process was so costly. She estimated the cost to implement scanning devices at foreign ports at $16 billion. The bottom line - port security is an international issue that raises much concern.
High costs and cumbersome labour certainly pose problems; however, potential security risks could be disastrous to the global supply chain.
Amy Morin writes about psychology, business and products such as jogging strollers.
Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity
As high-level supply chain attacks hit the news, Google and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have both developed proposals for how to address software supply chain security. This isn’t a new field, unfortunately. Since supply chains are a critical part of business resilience, criminals have no qualms about targeting its software. That’s why identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber supply chain risks (C-SCRM) is at the top of Google and NIST’s respective agendas.
High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks
According to Google, no comprehensive end-to-end framework exists to mitigate threats across the software supply chain. [Yet] ‘there is an urgent need for a solution in the face of the eye-opening, multi-billion-dollar attacks in recent months...some of which could have been prevented or made more difficult’.
Here are several of the largest cybersecurity failures in recent months:
- SolarWinds. Alleged Russian hackers slipped malicious code into a routine software update, which they then used as a Trojan horse for a massive cyberattack.
- Codecov. Attackers used automation to collect credentials and raid ‘additional resources’, such as data from other software development vendors.
- Malicious attacks on open-source repositories. Out of 1,000 GitHub accounts, more than one in five contained at least one dependency confusion-related misconfiguration.
As a result of these attacks and Biden’s recent cybersecurity mandate, NIST and Google took action. NIST held a 1,400-person workshop and published 150 papers worth of recommendations from Microsoft, Synopsys, The Linux Foundation, and other software experts; Google will work with popular source, build, and packaging platforms to help companies implement and excel at their SLSA framework.
What Are Their Recommendations?
Here’s a quick recap: NIST has grouped together recommendations to create federal standards; Google has developed an end-to-end framework called Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA)—pronounced “Salsa”. Both address software procurement and security.
Now, here’s the slightly more in-depth version:
- NIST. The organisation wants more ‘rigorous and predictable’ ways to secure critical software. They suggest that firms use vulnerability disclosure programmes (VDP) and software bills of materials (SBOM), consider simplifying their software and give at least one developer per project security training.
- Google. The company thinks that SLSA will encompass the source-build-publish software workflow. Essentially, the four-level framework helps businesses make informed choices about the security of the software they use, with SLSA 4 representing an ideal end state.
If this all sounds very abstract, consider the recent SolarWinds attack. The attacker compromised the build platform, installed an implant, and injected malicious behaviour during each build. According to Google, higher SLSA levels would have required stronger security controls for the build platform, making it more difficult for the attacker to succeed.
How Do The Proposals Differ?
As Brian Fox, the co-founder and CTO at Sonatype, sees it, NIST and Google have created proposals that complement each other. ‘The NIST [version] is focused on defining minimum requirements for software sold to the government’, he explained, while Google ‘goes [further] and proposes a specific model for scoring the supply chain. NIST is currently focused on the “what”. Google, along with other industry leaders, is grappling with the “how”’.