The cyber security threats ring alarm bells for all the businesses across industries. Especially when these kinds of attacks take place within the same industry like Maersk Line, a business may consider reviewing their contingency plan in a heightened state of urgency. While it’s true that any business can become a target of cyber attack; there are certain steps you can take to protect your shipping company from cyber attacks. Instead of waiting for the ‘right time’ to take safety measures, you can prepare in advance.
Shipping companies are susceptible to both regular market threats as well as potential future threats. Both of which can negatively affect your supply chain. Regular events like peak shipping season from August to October can make it challenging to be able to book shipping containers or getting enough space in them for your goods. The good thing is that these events are recurrent. Hence, they are predictable and proactive steps can be taken to lessen their impact on ones shipping company. For instance, the shipping containers can be booked in advance 2 to 3 months before the peak season.
Cyber attack like any other challenge is a potential threat. Like most of the shipping challenges, cyber attacks force a company to rush their shipping methods to meet the customer demands. The effect of this on the budget can be quite profound because the victim never knows the duration and severity of attack until it’s resolved.
The shipping companies with sea freight are most vulnerable to the cyber attacks because they are involved with foreign freight companies with varying degrees of security measures. Therefore, every shipping company needs to assess the potential area of vulnerability. Then they can work on overcoming future threats by working on a sustainable plan with their freight partners and suppliers.
The first most important step is to think deeper to understand the risk exposure of your company. There are a few ways to do that.
- Take a closer look at your electronic relationships
World has become a global village and businesses are interconnected through a system of networks. A business is not only connected with the first tier freight providers and suppliers, but with all of their electronic business partners. So, all the electronic links with your suppliers and forwarders will need to be examined. After that all the links beyond your immediate partners also need to be examined.
For example, a shipping company may be confident that all their connections with their immediate partners are safe. However, those companies may not have safe connections themselves further down the line, which can impact the cyber security of your business in the long run.
So what needs to be done in this scenario is to develop a complete network map of supply chain extending at least one tier beyond your immediate suppliers and partner relationships. This type of map can reveal unexpected vulnerabilities and dependencies that enable a business to mitigate potential risks along with their partner companies.
- Prioritize the threats you consider most likely to occur
A business needs to take some obvious steps that work as effective deterrents against potential threats. Steps like ensuring that regular security updates and patches are applied and all the employees are educated about important security measures are some of the basics.
Secondly, rank the threats according to the risk they can pose. Address the most risk prone areas first with urgency and keen scrutiny. Assess all the data and technology assets including computer equipments, tablets, mobile phones and financial data of customers and employees.
- Host a cross-functional discussion within your organization to debate and implement recovery methods
It is crucial to know the way your shipping company identifies and handles other risks. After that, align the freight forwarding strategies with the company’s overall attitude towards risk management and expected time it will take to recover in case of a cyber attack.
The defense against cyber threats is not a one-time event. It needs continuous planning, revisiting and updating old strategies. The recovery methods need to be tested continuously to ensure their relevance and to achieve the target of securing the company within expected time frame. Sometimes the discussion with company’s leadership team and more detailed discussion with the business partners are most likely to result in sharing of useful practices.
- Put an incident plan in place
Making decisions that are well planned is an important factor in this era of high cyber security risk. As mentioned before, a shipping company needs a response program in place even before the breach takes place. By carefully drafting and implementing a plan, companies can avoid becoming the target of next cyber attack.
- Conduct penetration testing every year
Like other companies, shipping companies are also encouraged to evaluate their risk profile and address the weaknesses accordingly. Of all the companies tested in Sikich’s manufacturing report of 2006, only one third of the corporations reported conducting penetration testing annually. Companies can protect their patents, designs and supply chain from falling victim to a cyber attack by conducting vulnerability testing.
- Don't be the weak link
Everyone is responsible for the security from CEO to warehouse worker. Each and every step from locking the door to encrypting the files and emails plays a vital role in ensuring the safety of the organization. All employees should be held accountable for their actions and must be provided with the basic understanding of cyber risks, cyber security and ways to keep the threats at bay. This will certainly prevent your company from becoming a weak link.
Cyber attacks can happen to any of us including the suppliers and partners who work with us. Therefore, it’s imperative that we work together to prevent disruptions resulting from cyber attacks.