Last week, COSCO U.S. was severely affected by a cyber attack.
Their communications system halted, and their ability to communicate with vessels, terminals, customers, and vendors was disrupted. They implemented a series of emergency measures to continue operations at a slower pace. On one hand, COSCO’s U.S. offices were struggling with communication issues, but COSCO’s overseas operations continued as normal with no issues. It was clear that the cyber attack was aimed at only affecting COSCO’s U.S. offices. Inbound and outbound communication in COSCO’s U.S. Offices is currently being managed via phone, hard copy transmissions, and emergency e-mail contacts. At this time, it’s unclear how long it will take to restore full operations.
Last week, terminal operators still processed COSCO information, though at a slow pace. Information regarding deliveries and bookings are managed via e-mails at a half-dozen North American ports. COSCO U.S. informed customers and partners about the cyber attack, and they are working to normalize operations and recover.
This has not been the first cyber attack within the shipping industry.
Maersk Group suffered a major cyber attack in June 2017, which cost the company up to $350 million in lost revenue. Maersk Line officials claimed the cyber attack eventually affected their 2017 financial goals.
The nature of the shipping industry requires multiple parties to interact and exchange critical data daily. Globally, terminals, carriers, logistics providers, and shippers are increasing their awareness of the cyber threat and are working to fix vulnerabilities that could lead to cyber attacks.
It’s very likely the shipping industry will face further cyber attacks.
Ports, terminal operators, carriers, and shippers need a clear strategy to decrease their exposure to cyber attacks, and related issues, as current measures have proven inefficient.
Recent cyber attacks against two of the largest international vessel operators need to be considered a wakeup call within the shipping industry. Shippers should re-consider how they communicate, submit, and receive critical shipment data, for bookings, confirmations, container status, deliveries, etc. Given this new reality of a 21st-century cyber-based world, shippers must re-consider if it is best to work with individual contacts at each vessel operator, or reduce exposure by switching to a third-party platform, such as a shipping management system that provides full, two-way communication.