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You're worried about hackers getting your password? Imagine trying to protect a South Coast port

The Port of Hueneme's Shoreside Power System was flooded, and destroyed by the December storm. It allowed ships to turn off heavily polluting diesel engines while docked, and use cleaner electric power. Port officials say it could take 1-2 years and more than $30 million to replace it.
The Port of Hueneme, like many places which are part of key public infrastructure, is putting heavy emphasis on cybersecurity to try to prevent potentially damaging hacks.

It's a busy, but peaceful day at the Port of Hueneme. But behind the scenes, the Port is waging a quiet war. Cyber attackers are constantly probing the Port’s computers systems, looking for weaknesses in its cyber security.

"We're a giant target, being part of the global supply chain," said Aaron Valance, who's the Port of Hueneme’s IT Manager. "We have many system here at the port which could conceivably be a risk point. We put systems into place to avoid that... but some of the things we're always worried about are our industry control systems... things like cranes."

He said with cyber threats to businesses, and public infrastructure increasing, it’s a constant battle to stay on top of constantly evolving efforts to break through security.

Some of the West Coast’s top government, and private industry cybersecurity experts take part in a seminar at the Port to talk about the latest cyber threats, and technology to thwart them.

Christina Birdsey is the Port of Hueneme’s Chief Operations Officer. She said the stakes in keeping the Port operating smoothly are high. $11.4 billion worth of goods pass through the facility annually, ranging from BMW’s to bananas.

"It's a matter of making sure you are ahead of the... that all those holes are plugged," said Birdsey. "Staying on top of it... learning what they are trying to penetrate next."

Port officials say one of the keys to staying on top of the situation is working with federal agencies which have invested heavily in cybersecurity research.

Valance says keeping the facility cyber-secure is a never ending battle. And, cyberattacks like the major one on the Los Angeles School District just a few days ago have made what was a very behind the scenes war a few years ago a public one today.

Port officials say their fight is one we should all be able to relate to. It’s no different than trying to protect you passwords, or personal information, but on a much larger scale.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.