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One of the world’s largest private shipping companies – Maersk (A.P. Moller-Maersk) – confirmed that their IT systems are down across multiple sites and business units due to a cyber attack.

Maersk, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, said the source of the attack is still unknown but that it effects could extend across the company’s global operations. What we do know, is that this is yet another case of ransomware, reminiscent of the recent WannaCrypt attacks.

As in those attacks, hackers here used ransomware to encrypt (convert information into a code to prevent unauthorized access) data and hold it hostage until the specified amount is paid via Bitcoin (also encrypted).

Maersk-Ransomware

Due to the nature of this cyberattack, physical assets are held hostage digitally, having a negative impact on the company’s global trade metrics for deliveries, cost per compliance, and total landed cost. And because this is ultimately ransom, it spells additional cost for the business, as insurance will surely increase and the attackers now have a full view of company data, giving them extra leverage for future attacks.

Maersk handles approximately 600 container vessels and around 25% of all containers shipped on the Asia-Europe route. This means that a supply chain disruption could affect deliveries for all products and all markets Maersk serves. Outside of container shipping, these include port and tug boat operations, oil and gas production, drilling services, and oil tankers.

Depending on the retailers or governments connected to Maersk’s container shipping, import and export flows could also be drastically affected. If these include construction projects or medical/food supplies that are expected on a certain date, critical goods could be held back, affecting the lives of many.

The vulnerability of a supply chain in the global digital economy has never been greater with attackers now holding the power to freeze operations and halt huge chunks of the market. And though ships may continue to move in light of this attack, all global logistics will slow substantially. Losing such significant shipping capacity overnight is something no supply chain can predict, but they can prepare for it.

Through strategic sustainability initiatives, companies are often able to build in additional flexibility in routings, modes, and carriers, so that shipments can be pulled through different ports as a method of risk aversion. These alternatives may suffice for physical disruptions and local conditions, but ultimately, companies must focus on how to best mitigate the effects of a cyberattack that could cripple their operations worldwide, putting their business at risk. The money lost to ransom is only part of the cost. The money lost to poor operational performance could be far greater.

Supply chain risk is now a key factor, along with associated budget support, in determining how cyber security is approached when preparing for ransomware attacks. It’s now a critical business issue, not just an IT problem. Company survival is at stake.

Related Research: Global Trade Technology Adoption: Is Your Organization Ready for the Pending Changes?

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