The University of Hawaiʻi hosted the first national Maritime Cybersecurity Exercise at UH Mānoa. Conducted by the United States Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, the two-day event focused on maritime industrial computer systems and networks, with a focus on Hawaiʻi’s container cargo distribution system.

“Specifically for Hawaiʻi, our maritime community is essential because that’s where our goods come in from. They come in via ship or barge, they’re transported around the state,” said Capt. Shannon N. Gilreath, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu.

The cybersecurity exercise follows the recent cyberattacks on the Sony Corporation and other high profile companies, highlighting the vulnerability of even the most sophisticated network systems.

“In the same way that we prepare for hurricanes and tsunamis, we’re trying to prepare our maritime community from a potential cyberattack,” Gilreath said.

The exercise brought together information technology professionals from the Coast Guard and the community, as well as students, faculty and staff from the university’s information technology and computer science programs.

group of people around a computer
Information technology professionals from the Coast Guard and the community, as well as University of Hawaiʻi students, faculty and staff participated in the Maritime Cybersecurity Exercise at UH Mānoa.

A UH team led by UH Mānoa Assistant Faculty Specialist Gerald Lau developed a hands-on exercise involving an interactive simulation of maritime industrial computer systems and networks—called a cyber range.

“So what we’re trying to do is to simulate a business environment for our Honolulu port. And what they’re doing is the teams are defending the different entities while they’re being attacked in the cyber area,” said Lau.

UH West Oʻahu student Melvin Quemado is playing the role of a hacker.

“As a hacker, once you know how people get in, you can use it to defend yourself. So what I’m learning now is what I can use to defend future systems—how hackers come in—so I know how to protect systems when I’m in the work force,” said Quemado.

“Working with the University of Hawai’i has been tremendous because they have this cyber range that we can use and they’ve made it available for our industry partners to really do this. And we couldn’t do this without them,” Gilreath said.

“Best of all, this gives our students a fantastic opportunity to develop practical skills and abilities that will help them as they become graduates, meet the rapidly growing need for cybersecurity professionals in Hawaiʻi’s workforce,” said UH President David Lassner.

Information gathered from this cybersecurity exercise will help Hawaiʻi’s businesses determine where the vulnerabilities are, how cybercrime could affect the system and the best strategies for improving the system’s long-term resiliency.

Read the UH news release for more about the exercise.