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Aftermath of cyber attack Sea-Invest cyber attack lingers

Hackers disrupt Belgian port's fruit supply

Online hackers have been attacking some companies at the Port of Antwerp since the weekend. Sea-Invest in one of them. This company runs the fruit wharves at Belgian New Fruit Wharf in Antwerp. Sea-Invest's fruit imports, which were hacked, are still being hindered, says this Belgian terminal operator. "Our fellow operators, other ports, and we are trying to find a solution. We want to help our customers as best we can," says a Sea-Invest representative.

"Things are looking up. We've fully resumed one part of our operation and are working on the other. We're making good progress, but it's hard to say when we'll be completely operational again. Everything will have to be fully restored within the next few days or weeks."

"It's complete chaos," says someone from the banana sector, who has been affected. "Things were already dramatic because there was little fruit on the market. But now, banana supplies are already ten days behind schedule. All the fruit has to be removed from the containers manually. That all leads to very short ripening schedules and a lot of unease in the various links."

"Fortunately, our clients are understanding, but they have no choice; our hands are tied, we can't do anything about it. This just proves how dependent you are on such a system. Nobody knows how long this will take. We're now looking at what can be done with the new shipment at our site elsewhere in Belgium."

Security expert Eddy Willems of G Data told the regional broadcaster, ATV, that 40 to 50% of the cyber attack victims usually pay the ransom demand. If they do not pay this, the entire network has to be restored, which could take weeks. According to the security company, Secutec, in this case, there was no communication with the hackers.

Secutec, which was called in by the port authority, reports that the attack was due to 'powerful ransomware' deployed by a large hacker group. "Thanks to a strong security strategy, Sea-Invest could largely limit the damage. The company immediately took the necessary preventive measures."

"They thus prevented the ransomware affecting suppliers and customers too. A team of 40 IT experts is now working around the clock to get all divisions fully operational again as quickly as possible," says a Secutec spokesperson. The attack did not affect the company's backups, so Secutec has the necessary data to rebuild the network using the existing components.

Antwerp's Public Prosecution Office has launched an investigation and is currently mapping everything out. The Federal Judicial Police's Computer Crime Unit is also involved.

This is not the first time a ransomware attack has targeted port terminals. In 2017, hackers hit Rotterdam and brought two terminals to a standstill. As a result, in 2020, the port began setting up a digital fire department to prevent this type of attack. Sea-Invest has announced that they have now configured everything in such a way that such attacks will not be possible in the future. "We will carry the lesson learned here along for the future."

Click here to see the ATV report (in Dutch).

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