AASHTO Journal

Maersk Container Terminals Disrupted by Cyber Attack

World container ports and cargo distribution systems saw a major example of how cyber systems can be vulnerable to hackers and destructive software coding, when terminals of container shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk suffered a major cyber attack.

Maersk – the world's largest cargo container-handling firm – said it was hit June 27 along with some other major companies "as part of a global cyber attack named Petya."

While many of its technology systems were affected, the company emphasized that its Maersk Line container ships moving around the world were "maneuverable, able to communicate and crews are safe."

capitol0816.jpgHowever, it said the company's APM Terminals were affected at a number of ports, including at Los Angeles where it operates that port's the single-largest ocean container facility.

Early on, Maersk said it had "contained the issue" and was working on a technical recovery plan with information technology partners and global cyber security agencies.

"We have shut down a number of systems to help contain the issue," Maersk said initially. "At this point our entities Maersk Oil, Maersk Drilling, Maersk Supply Services, Maersk Tankers, Maersk Training, Svitzer and MCI are not operationally affected. Precautionary measures have been taken to ensure continued operations."

The next day it posted a notice showing some improvements but also continued disruptions.

"All Maersk Line vessels continue to be under control, employees are safe and communication to crew and management onboard is functioning," it said. "We are able to accept bookings again via INTTRA, the world's largest booking platform.

"The majority of our terminals are now operational. Some of these terminals are operating slower than usual or with limited functionality. APM Terminals continue to work towards full restoration of its IT systems."

It said the DAMCO warehousing and supply chain logistics unit, which operates in 100 countries, had "limited access to certain systems. A business continuity plan has been deployed with a key focus on protecting customers' cargo flows."

In addition, Maersk said that "a number of IT systems are deliberately shut down across multiple sites and select business units, also impacting email systems. Business continuity plans are being implemented and prioritized. We continue to assess the situation. Until this analysis is complete, we cannot be specific about how many sites and locations are affected or when normal business operations are restored."

The port disruptions prompted Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, a former U.S. House member from that area and member of the congressional PORTS Caucus, to prod Congress to "reexamine our nation's port cyber security vulnerabilities."

Hahn said in a press release: "When I was in Congress, I authored legislation to conduct an assessment of the cybersecurity of the nation's top ten busiest ports. Today's cyberattack on Maersk that has shut down the APM Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles underscores the ongoing risk and incredible economic damage that could be caused by a cyberattack at one of our ports.  This attack should serve as a wake-up call.

"The report that resulted from my legislation requires security clearance to view but I encourage members of the Congressional PORTS Caucus to study this analysis and take steps to secure our ports in the new age of cyberattacks."

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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