A major cybersecurity breach at a key operator of Australian maritime ports has led to a “nationally significant” disruption in the movement of goods, according to a government official. The incident, detected by Dubai-based DP World’s Australian subsidiary on Friday, prompted the closure of landside access to port areas. The impact is widespread, affecting ports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Fremantle, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.
Australia’s recently appointed national cybersecurity coordinator, Air Marshal Darren Goldie, described the incident as a “nationally significant cyber incident” in a tweet. DP World Australia, which handles around 40 percent of the country’s international container cargo annually, equivalent to over 3 million containers, is grappling with the fallout. Goldie predicts the disruption to be felt for several days, impacting both imports and exports.
In Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, DP World Australia is one of three stevedores, and in Fremantle, it is one of two operators. Despite ongoing ship loading and unloading activities, a spokesperson for Fremantle noted that trucks are unable to access the port laydown area to retrieve or deposit containers.
The government is actively responding to the incident, with Home Affairs and Cybersecurity Minister Clare O’Neil stating that technical assistance is being provided. The National Coordination Mechanism, a method previously used during emergencies such as the novel coronavirus pandemic and floods, is being deployed to coordinate the response.
Catherine King, the minister for infrastructure and transport, tweeted that the government is receiving regular briefings and working closely with DP World to understand the impacts across the supply chain.
DP World took immediate action, including disconnecting internet connectivity to halt unauthorized access to their network, according to a statement. The move aimed to contain the incident and minimize its impact on employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
An investigation into the incident has been initiated by the Australian Federal Police, as confirmed by a spokesperson. However, specific details, including whether the incident involves a ransomware attack, were not disclosed due to the ongoing nature of the matter.
This cybersecurity incident adds further complexity to the challenges faced by DP World, as the logistics giant contends with rolling strikes by the Maritime Union of Australia. These strikes include work stoppages and bans on loading and unloading trucks.