One of Australia’s largest port operators, DP World, has restored its online systems after the company was forced to shut down operations across the country for three days following an online cyber security incident. 

After spotting the breach on Friday, DP World disconnected its internet, significantly impacting freight movements.

The breach had crippled operations at the company, which manages approximately 40 per cent of the goods that flow in and out of Australia, affecting its container terminals in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Western Australia’s Fremantle.

The breach comes as the Federal Government on 13 November released some details of its proposed cyber security laws that would force companies to report all ransomware incidents, demands or payments.

Since late 2022, Australia has seen an increase in the rise of cyber intrusions, prompting a reform to rules and the establishment of an agency to help coordinate responses to hacks 

A representative from DP World, said that operations have resumed following successful tests of key systems, and the cyber incident is part of an investigation process. 

DP World expects to move roughly 5,000 containers from the four Australian terminals throughout the day, although ongoing investigation and responses to protect its networks could result in temporary disruptions over the next few days.

Federal Minister for Cyber Security, Clare O’Neil, said to ABC Radio, “The DP World breach shows how vulnerable we have been in this country to cyber incidents and how much better we need to work together to make sure we keep our citizens safe.”

Ms O’Neil also said new rules and reforms, as part of the new cyber security law proposals would also bring telecommunication companies under “strict cyber requirements”, after an outage last week at telco Optus cut off internet and phone connections to nearly half of Australia’s population for about twelve hours.

DP World has not specified if it received any ransomware demands.

Importance of maritime cyber security – RMIT University

RMIT Centre Director for Cybersecurity Research and Innovation, Professor Matthew Warren, said that the ongoing cyber incident at DP World Australia has highlighted the importance of maritime cyber security and how a disruption can affect the whole country. 

“The cyber incident is an ongoing investigation and not much is known at the moment, but we will find out more as the facts unfold,” Mr Warren said.

“The incident is impacting operations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle. Any disruption to docks could potentially disrupt Australia’s supply chain. 

“The government’s new approach to cyber security incident handling and the key role of Australia’s National Cyber Security Coordinator, will be key in dealing with a cyber incident of national significance such as this.

“What it shows is the new energy that the government has in dealing with a national cyber incident.

“Australia’s new cyber security strategy will be launched in the next few weeks and again this will reinforce a new approach to handling cyber security from a whole of nation perspective.

“It must introduce more regulatory controls to allow the government and industry to work together when there is a cyber incident of national significance.

“In the meantime, the government with DP World Australia will be handling the current cyber situation to resolve it as soon as possible.” 

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