Cyberattack may cripple major Australian ports for days

2023-11-13 03:20:24 GMT2023-11-13 11:20:24(Beijing Time) Sina English


A gantry crane adorned with a logo for ports operator DP World is seen behind company signage at an entrance to the Port Botany compound in Sydney on November 13, 2023.

Major ports handling nearly 40 percent of Australia's freight trade may remain crippled for days, officials said Monday, after a cyberattack blocked the key gateways.

Leading ports operator DP World said it cut its systems from the Internet when the attack was detected on Friday, preventing trucks from unloading or picking up cargo at ports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle.

Australia's national cybersecurity coordinator, Darren Goldie, said DP World is "making good progress in trying to get their systems back online."

"I don't have any further estimation on the time it will take to restore but the company does have confidence that that is certainly in the days, not weeks, category," he told national broadcaster ABC.

The DP World ports were able to remove containers from ships, but the cargo yards were "filling up," he said, because trucks could not transport the goods in or out.

Goldie said the company did the right thing by cutting off its Internet access to prevent the cyberattack from spreading.

Goldie said he did not know who was behind it. And he did not expect the government to be attributing blame "anytime soon."

He said "all indications" pointed to the incident being contained but stressed that he was relying on DP World and its response team for that information.

DP World's adviser on its response to the cyberattack, Alastair MacGibbon, said there had been "unauthorized activity in the system."

Data had been taken by "someone malicious or unauthorized," he told Nine Network television, without giving details of the nature of the stolen information.

The port operator was able to access emergency freight such as vital medical supplies and equipment, said MacGibbon, chief strategy officer at CyberCX.

The Australian government called emergency meetings with the company and industry representatives over the weekend to manage its response.

Lucrative target

The environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, said the government wanted to toughen Australian businesses' defenses against cyberattacks.

International criminal syndicates were using ransomware to extort money from Australian businesses but the government did not know the full extent because some victims paid the ransom without reporting it, the minister said.

Cybersecurity experts have said inadequate safeguards and the stockpiling of sensitive customer information have made Australia a lucrative target for hackers.