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The rising significance of cybersecurity for logistics

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By Aditya Vazirani

We all read in the newspapers and the online news portals about the importance of cyber security and how governments and large organisations are being targeted by hackers to mine out crucial data. As businesses are forced to digitise during this pandemic, employees are working from home. Certain controls of firewalls have become redundant as they aren’t “on premise” and is creating a cyber security risk unless companies have been agile to incorporate tunnels and VPNs.

A report from Symantec Corp. (now part of Broadcom), published in 2019 stated India is the next most cyber attacked country in the world, after the U.S. and China. During the quarter April-June 2019, India topped the list of countries most cyber attacked, according to a report released by Subex.

A team at IBM has calculated that the average cost of a data breach in India grew 7.29 per cent year-over-year to reach INR 128 million from INR 119 million in 2019. The direct costs from cyber security breaches are growing exponentially, and companies – even small ones – are feeling the need to invest in new systems and a more comprehensive risk management solution. The report also mentioned that among the most commonly targeted sectors in India, were critical infrastructure, BFSI, defence, and manufacturing.

A new and surprising entrant to this list is logistics and supply chain networks. The 2017 cyber-attack on the Maersk’s computer systems brought chaos and mayhem across the globe causing delays across ports of New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Europe’s Rotterdam, and India’s largest container port JNPT. This was the first massive cyber threat to a logistics and supply chain giant and since then, hackers have been actively targeting the sector.

While it is reasonable to assume that these bigger businesses may find themselves vulnerable to cyber-attacks, one wouldn’t think that medium sized enterprises would be subjected to such cyber-threats. While basic precautions against phishing and malware which come along as standard with Anti-Virus and Firewalls. SMEs and MSMEs fail to invest in advanced security measures against threats like ransomware remain vulnerable and unprepared.

The logistics and supply chain sector is both expansive and intricately fragmented, connecting businesses from the remotest corners of the world. The immense domestic and international reach, often formed through a collaboration of multiple smaller companies working in tandem, connects multiple sectors across geographies. Data in the supply chain spans from tracking of raw materials to delivery of products to the store or customer, customer information, costs related to transactions which also is the differentiator in how some companies succeed. All this information if not protected could lead to the demise of companies if the malicious intent was to understand the “secret sauce” that has created behemoths today. A company is only as strong as its weakest link.

With increased digitisation of the logistics and supply chain companies and introduction of advanced technology enabled solutions, from IoT, cloud computing, AI and data analytics for efficient functioning, the sector is increasingly drawing attention of hackers and potential cyber criminals.

The rising significance of logistics as a vital infrastructure for modern global trade and the accelerated adoption of digitization across the network, make this sector the next potential target to cyber-crimes. Even as India strives to become a manufacturing intensive digital economy, ensuring a secure and well protected cyber space is going to be extremely vital for its growth and success. Hopefully the adoption of blockchain and digital secured contracts could help create transparency and safety in the information supply chain but until the time that is a new norm companies need to re-look at their existing infrastructure and invest with the right guidance on solutions.

(The author is the CEO, Robinsons Global Logistics Solutions)

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


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