A woman speaks at a lectern during a press conference at the Port of Long Beach.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell explains the "Shields Ready" campaign to prepare for cyber threats at the Port of Long Beach Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Photo by Alicia Robinson

With ransomware, cyberattacks and other such incidents becoming more common, federal disaster management and security officials are urging public agencies such as the Port of Long Beach and businesses that work with them to be prepared for security threats.

The heads of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a national readiness campaign on Tuesday at the Port of Long Beach.

The goal of “Shields Ready” is to help public and private organizations prepare for risks to vital infrastructure and plan how to recover quickly if an attack or disaster happens.

“It’s incredibly important that we expect disruption to occur because we live in a world that is so connected, so interdependent, but yet so vulnerable to a myriad of threats,” CISA Director Jen Easterly said.

In October, two hospitals in New York suffered cyberattacks that led them to shut down computer systems and send incoming ambulances as well as some patients to other hospitals, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

Closer to home, a 2022 article from the BBC quoted Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka saying the port was fending off about 40 million cyberattacks per month.

And while it wasn’t due to security threats, pandemic-induced supply chain problems created a backlog of ships at the San Pedro Bay ports that took more than two years to completely clear.

Port of Long Beach Chief Operating Officer Noel Hacegaba said after Tuesday’s press conference that officials want to do everything possible to keep ships and goods moving through the Long Beach-Los Angeles port complex, which he called “ground zero.”

“At a time when our industry is sharing data and becoming more integrated, it becomes even more critical that we ensure that we have cybersecurity measures across the entire supply chain so that if there’s an impact in one segment of the supply chain, the rest of the supply chain doesn’t become the victim,” he said.

As part of the readiness campaign, CISA is offering free resources for public and private sector organizations to protect against cybersecurity threats and reduce their potential impacts.

No specific funding was announced as part of the Shields Ready campaign, but earlier this year the Port of Long Beach announced it had received a $2.72 million Department of Homeland Security grant to improve its defenses, including hardware such as security cameras and cloud-based protections to ward off terrorism and cyberattacks.