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Australian port operations suspended after cyber incident

One of Australia’s leading port operators has temporarily suspended operations at several key locations following a cyber-attack.

DP World Australia closed port operations at Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle and disconnected its internet connection to prevent further unauthorised access after detecting a breach on Friday, November 10.

The security measure has led to a suspension of normal operations, with key systems integral to port operations  not functioning normally, resulting in cargo and containers being stranded at docks.

On Sunday, Australia’s National Cyber Security Coordinator, Air Marshal Darren Goldie, wrote on LinkedIn that the Australian government was continuing to work with DP World to resolve ‘a nationally significant cyber incident’ affecting a number of ports around the country.

“Today I again convened the National Coordination Mechanism to bring together government agencies and the maritime and logistics sectors as part of the response to the incident. This followed earlier technical and Ministerial briefings with the company,” Goldie wrote.

“DP World’s IT system remains disconnected from the internet, significantly impacting their operations in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. Our priority remains assisting DP World to restore their systems, which will allow cargo operations to recommence.”

Goldie also noted that DP World had advised the Australian Government that the interruption would likely continue for a number of days, rather than weeks, while also reporting that the operator had the capacity to access sensitive freight if necessary. 

The breach puts a spotlight on the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to cyber-attacks. 

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil emphasised the government's active involvement in resolving the issue and its commitment to minimise the impact on Australian citizens. 

“The cyber incident at DP World is serious and ongoing,” she wrote on LinkedIn. “DP World manages almost 40% of the goods flowing in and out of our country, and this incident is affecting the ports of Melbourne, Fremantle, Botany and Brisbane.

“Our government is working closely with the company to protect Australians and their interests. [Infrastructure and Transport] Minister Catherine King and I have been briefed directly by the company and are both in contact regularly with the National Cyber Security Coordinator.

“This incident is a reminder of the serious risk that cyber attacks pose to our country, and to vital infrastructure we all rely on.”

O’Neil also pointed out the government's ongoing efforts to strengthen national cyber security measures, highlighting the imminent release of new cyber security laws that would include strict requirements for telecommunication companies.