The impact on supply chain surrounding cyber attacks

DP World decided to shut down its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Fremantle port operations after discovering hackers within its systems
Port operator DP World, was the victim of a cyber attack which caused the company to disconnect its internet, causing disruptions to crucial systems

A successful supply chain network consists of numerous organisations collaborating seamlessly, much like a finely tuned machine, to produce and provide essential products and services. 

As technology progresses, supply chains are becoming faster and more efficient than ever, however, the increased interdependence and reliance on technology also bring about a constant risk of cyber attacks.

The disruptive nature of cyber attacks

Thousands of shipping containers filled with consumer goods were stuck at ports around the country on Sunday after a cyberattack hit stevedore DP World Australia on Friday.

DP World, Australia's largest port operator, is only now in the process of gradually resuming operations following a cyber-attack. The company decided to shut down its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Fremantle port operations after discovering hackers within its systems on Friday. 

This move has led to significant delays in handling cargo and containers at the affected docks. To prevent further unauthorised access, DP World Australia disconnected its internet connection, causing disruptions to crucial systems associated with port operations.

Director of the Freight and Trade Alliance, Paul Zalai, said limited operations had resumed with DP World’s docks at Brisbane and Fremantle moving through imports and exports, however, Sydney and Melbourne were only dealing with imports.

“We have heard from one of our members, who say DP World told them it’ll be another two weeks before accepting export cargo at (Sydney’s) Port Botany,” Zalai explains. “That’s going to have devastating effects for our operators.”

Zalai noted that one regional exporter has 300 containers stuck at one port, and while the full extent of the outage is not yet known, operations on Monday suggest that it will not have a significant impact on the flow of goods for Christmas shopping.

“More and more is becoming apparent by the hour… The overall position is looking a lot better than it did over the weekend, as operations are up and running,” he said.

Common forms of supply chain attacks

Software vulnerabilities

The most common method for cyber attackers to breach supply chain networks involves exploiting software vulnerabilities. Malicious updates or compromises to open-source code serve as channels for injecting malware. Mitigating this threat can be achieved through third-party risk management and enhancing cyber security awareness through training.

State-sponsored threats

Foreign cyber criminals target supply chains with the aim of disrupting or halting the flow of utilities, goods, and services. They may also seek to steal intelligence information, destabilise financial activities, or facilitate military actions. Organisations linked to foreign vendors should exercise particular caution in the face of this threat.

Data breaches

For numerous cyber attackers, personal and financial data is the prize that is being sought after. Supply chains encompass various businesses, all varying in size, and to a proficient hacker, targeting a smaller entity with less sophisticated security measures and limited resources for software maintenance is merely an initial move. Stolen credentials can serve as a gateway to more substantial targets possessing larger data repositories further up the supply chain.

One of the best methods of managing cyber attacks is to look at preventing them before they occur. Despite the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks, human error is still a leading cause of cyber security breaches, but by building cyber security awareness, providing up-to-date relevant information for staff, and enhancing password security, it can help employees to recognise and stop third-party data leaks before they become severe breaches.


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