Sunday, April 14, 2024

Investigation by Congress discovers Chinese cranes have communication equipment, sparking worries about potential spying

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Some cranes made in China and used at American ports have devices for talking to faraway places, but no one knows why or when they were put there. A special investigation by US lawmakers looked into over 200 Chinese cranes at American ports. They worry that these cranes might be used to watch or damage things in the US.

The investigators found out that these talking devices, called modems, were not written down in any agreement between American ports and the Chinese crane company, ZPMC. When American port workers went to China to check the cranes, the modems were already there, but no one had told them.

The modems were discovered more than once on the ZPMC cranes, according to an aide familiar with the investigation.

Representative Mark Green, who leads the House Homeland Security Committee, said that the investigation found problems with the cranes at US ports. He thinks that these problems could let the Chinese government spy on trade and mess up the movement of goods, hurting the US economy. Green warns that unless things change quickly, the Chinese government could easily get into important American systems and become very powerful.

ZPMC, the Chinese crane company, said on its website that it always follows the rules of the countries where it works. A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, called the worries about Chinese cranes a kind of paranoia.

The Coast Guard, which watches over the ports, has already told the ports to make the Chinese cranes more secure. These cranes, which are important for moving goods at US ports, are mostly made in China, making up nearly 80% of all cranes at US ports, according to the Coast Guard.

Cranes can be controlled from far away, so someone who knows how to hack into their systems could learn things about the ports or even cause problems with the equipment.

In its inspections of Chinese cranes, the Coast Guard found weaknesses that were built in on purpose, but they didn’t find any harmful software. The CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities said that US ports work with the Coast Guard and other experts to reduce risks.

The US government plans to spend $20 billion on new American-made port equipment, including cranes that are considered less of a security risk. Some experts say that many machines in the maritime and oil and gas industries have devices, like modems, for remote maintenance. These devices, however, aren’t always well documented, which can create security risks. Efforts are being made to make security checks more thorough.

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