Cyberattack Could Lead to a Shortage of Christmas Goods in Australia

 

A cyberattack over the weekend partially closed four major Australian ports, raising concerns about cascading effects. 

Forty percent of the freight that enters the country is handled by DP World Australia, which discovered a security breach on Friday and immediately turned off its internet connection. 

This meant that throughout the weekend, the company’s port operations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Fremantle were shut down. 

The company could not estimate how long it would take to recuperate from the cyberattack, but experts believe it could take weeks, prompting price hikes and rising inflationary pressure. 

According to AMP chief economist Shane Oliver, a lengthy disruption in the operations of UAE-owned DP World could have a ripple effect on the overall economy and help trigger another interest rate hike. 

He stated that the attack on DP World, as well as its inability to move goods in or out of its ports, constituted a supply shock, and that a prolonged closure could push up commodity prices, forcing the Reserve Bank to consider another interest rate hike at its December meeting.

“It goes to the nature of the supply shock here, and this could have an impact on the prices, and inflation rate, of goods, which has been coming down. If this stops that, or it pushes up prices, then the Reserve Bank could be looking at it at their December meeting,” Oliver noted. 

However, senior Westpac economist Justin Smirk stated that the Reserve Bank is beginning to consider disruptive incidents such as cyberattacks on supply chain infrastructure. 

The founder of the data breach tracker Have I Been Pwned and cybersecurity researcher Troy Hunt warned that disruptions to Australian consumers could last for weeks and have an impact on Christmas delivery. 

Hunt told this masthead, “If you look back to COVID, look at the sheer number of things that got disrupted just because bits and pieces couldn’t get delivered.” “It depends on the actions taken here as well; have the internal systems of [DP World] been destroyed?” 

He cited preliminary research from cybersecurity veteran Kevin Beaumont, who discovered that DP World was most likely the victim of a ransomware attack enabled by a vulnerability in Citrix NetScaler software. 

According to Hunt, ransomware groups are now far more professional than they used to be, with websites listing every victim and a countdown timer indicating how much longer they had to pay. 

“There’s … a financial motive for this sort of stuff,” Hunt noted. “Of course, we’ve seen this in Australia recently with the Medibank situation, we’re seeing this more and more. If you have a spin through some of the dark web ransomware websites, it’s just stunning the number of organisations that are listed on there.”


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