Cyber Attacks Could Paralyze US Ports, Captain Moskoff Tells CCICADA

cyber-threat2Using a simple GPS-jamming device, terrorists could paralyze ship traffic and operations at US ports, potentially costing billions of dollars in economic losses, Captain David B. Moskoff, a professor with the US Merchant Marine Academy, told CCICADA at a July 8, 2014 meeting.

A Master Mariner and recognized expert on maritime cyber security matters, Capt. Moskoff told CCICADA researchers and other visitors about a variety of serious and little known cyber threats to ports and the maritime domain. CCICADA, a University Center of Excellence under the US Department of Homeland Security, hosted the talk at its Rutgers University headquarters.

The maritime domain is now heavily dependent on computers and, as a result, large tankers, oil rigs, port operations and container-tracking systems, to name a few, are vulnerable to cyber threats, Moskoff said.

Captain David Moskoff explains the dangers of cyber attacks on US ports and ships to CCICADA researchers.

Captain David Moskoff explains the dangers of cyber attacks on US ports and ships to CCICADA researchers.

He discussed in detail one particular threat—the “Denial of Service Attack.” Those who engage in this attack strategy would use jamming technology to interrupt Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) communications and capabilities. GPS technology is widely used in the maritime industry for commercial ship navigation, port operations and related activities. It is also used by the US Coast Guard to support its protection of the nation’s maritime borders.

According to Capt. Moskoff, GPS jamming could close a major port for days, resulting in economic losses as a high as a billion dollars or more. To reduce the vulnerability of ports solely reliant on GPS, he suggested the use of redundant systems to work in parallel with GPS, such as e-Loran land-based, radio-wave technology.

Maritime cyber security is of growing interest to the US Coast Guard, and two Coast Guard visitors participated in Capt. Moskoff’s visit: Dr. Joseph DiRenzo, USCG, and CCICADA Advisory Board member and USCG Captain Benjamin A. Cooper, Deputy Sector Commander, Sector Delaware Bay.

Because maritime cyber security issues are not well known even to the maritime community or to the homeland security community, CCICADA and the American Military University are co-hosting a Learning Seminar and Symposium on Maritime Cyber Security, March 2-3, 2015 at Rutgers University.

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