Keeping Cyber Systems Healthy



Joshua Rose, Lieutenant Commander and Josephine Long, Lieutenant, US Coast Guard


Cyber systems enable the US Marine Transportation System (MTS) to operate with unprecedented speed and efficiency. Those same systems also create potential vulnerabilities. There are numerous systems and processes onboard ships and at marine facilities that depend on reliable and secure cyber systems. These processes and systems include: deck operations, navigation, engineering and propulsion systems, management, cargo operations, electronic certificates, manuals and record-keeping, cargo and vessel tracking, and pre-arrival screening. This reliance on cyber systems creates vulnerabilities to losses, damage, and system outages due to weak cybersecurity practices and cyber attacks. Understanding the interconnectedness of cyber with port operations and infrastructure illustrates the relationship of dependence and vulnerability we all face with regards to a cyber failure or attack. To help visualise this relationship, think of your port’s cybersecurity as the preventive measures and incentives you take to ensure your personal health and well-being. In general, a healthy lifestyle includes preventative measures such as assessing risks and coverage for life threatening events, as well as planning for your retirement. These measures all correlate to the cybersecurity measures that you can enact to help safeguard your port.

Protection of vital systems

Parents stress to their children the importance of washing their hands, not talking to strangers and consuming good, clean foods. Like washing your hands, practicing cyber hygiene reduces the risk of infection to your IT infrastructure. Not talking to strangers is equivalent to not opening e-mails or attachments from unknown sources. You wouldn’t open your door to just anyone, so don’t give access to your IT system to just any individuals or vendors that are unknown and have not been vetted. In addition to analysing your own security, also scrutinise any outside organisation’s security practices that might be tied to your own system; just as it is important to put healthy foods into your body, it is just as important for operating systems to have updated software and security programs. Educating employees on cyber hygiene practices is a proactive approach to increase your port’s cybersecurity. The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) offers information and recommended practices on many of these topics.

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