National Security

Cranes, EVs the new battlefornt

March 2, 2024

Saturday 02 March 2024
Mathew Knott
Sydney Morning Herald

 The federal government is being urged to examine reducing Australia's  reliance on Chinese madecranes and electric vehicles because of fears they  could be used for spying or to disrupt the normal functioning of society.
 United States President Joe Biden last week issued an executive order to  improve cybersecurity protections at American ports, including new  regulations for Chinese-made cranes and investing $30 billion to spur the  production of locally-made cranes.
 "People's Republic of Chinamanufactured ship-to-shore cranes make up the  largest share of the global market and account for nearly 80 per cent of  cranes at US ports," US Coast Guard cybersecurity chief Jay Vann said.
 "By design, these cranes may be controlled, serviced and programmed from  remote locations.
 These features potentially leave PRC-manufactured cranes vulnerable to  exploitation."
 Biden followed up on Thursday by announcing an unprecedented investigation  into potential security risks in the US automobile sector amid fears China  could use smart cars to spy on American drivers and infrastructure.
 Cybersecurity experts have previously expressed concerns about cranes  manufactured by Chinese industrial giant ZPMC which are installed in ports  across Australia and have sophisticated sensors allowing them to track  shipping.
 Australia's biggest ports operator, DP World, was forced to close its  operations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle last November after a  cyberattack which delayed the delivery of goods across the country.
 Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said: "We saw during  the DP World cyber incident the serious and rapid flowon effects for our  economy and society of a disruption of our ports.
 "We should not make the task of foreign state-backed hackers targeting  critical infrastructure any easier by using high-risk vendors."
 Paterson added that Chinesemade electric vehicles were a growing  cybersecurity risk.
 A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said: "The Department of Home  Affairs actively assesses Australia's technology security policy settings to  ensure they remain fit for purpose. "This includes consideration of how  the government manages the risks associated with vendors which could be  compelled by foreign governments to act against Australia's interests.
 "However, it is still important that businesses contemplate security  risk when deciding whether a product or service is appropriate for their  network."
 When announcing the US Commerce Department probe, Biden said electric  vehicles were "connected to our phones, to navigation systems, to  critical infrastructure and to the companies that made them".
 Beijing has previously said that concerns about surveillance risks from  Chinese-made products were "paranoia-driven".
 In his annual threat assessment in which he sensationally accused an unnamed  former politician of being co-opted by foreign spies ASIO boss Mike Burgess  said he was increasingly concerned about the threat of sabotage to critical  infrastructure.
 "ASIO is aware of one nationstate conducting multiple attempts to scan  critical infrastructure in Australia and other countries, targeting water,  transport and energy networks," he said this week.
 As speculation about the identity of the former politician continued, Prime  Minister Anthony Albanese said he supported Burgess' decision not to name the  individual at the centre of the scandal.
 "I have confidence in ASIO, I have confidence in the  directorgeneral," he said.
 FBI director Christopher Wray last month warned that "China's hackers  are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and  cause realworld harm to American citizens and communities, if or when China  decides the time has come to strike".

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