SecProPort: Protecting ports from cyberattacks

To a growing extent, modern seaports and inland ports are controlled by IT systems. In this context, the smooth exchange of information between port stakeholders is crucial from a business perspective. Even the briefest system downtimes can give rise to substantial financial losses. One reason for the far-reaching impact of such incidents lies in the interconnections that exist in a complex alliance of port communication systems. All the actors that play a role in port transport – such as terminal operators, shippers, forwarders, port IT and railway operators, and port and Customs authorities – depend on their own IT systems, which have developed over time. If an attacker successfully intervenes in this alliance – either by hacking a port actor’s IT system or gaining unauthorized access from the inside – he can, for example, corrupt information, or steal confidential data. In the worst case, such action can trigger a complete shutdown of all port operations, including the associated transport infrastructure.

Containerkran © Hapag Lloyd AG

Despite the substantial security risks, a comprehensive security architecture capable of protecting the entire port communication alliance against such attacks is still far lacking. The aim of the SecProPort project is thus to develop a general and comprehensive IT security architecture for the communication network that operates within port facilities. The innovative architecture is to support the diverse security requirements of the operating procedures that take place in the network, protect them against sabotage, and prevent third parties from illicitly gathering sensitive data. The architecture is also to provide resilience measures for minimizing the impact on other actors in the alliance in case of an incident, and returning the affected network to normal operation in a controlled manner.

Containerterminal © Hapag Lloyd AG

The desired architecture is to be implemented by first analyzing typical attack scenarios targeted at the data processed in the port communication alliance. The next step entails designing the actual security architecture for the alliance and installing a prototype in collaboration with the application partners. From a broader perspective, the project is adopting a preventive approach. Security aspects are high on the agenda from the outset of the development process, with a view to preventing significant losses in case of a potential incident.