Cyber Attack on Asia-Pacific Ports Could Cost $110B, Hitting Global Supply Chains

October 30, 2019

A single cyber attack that affects major ports across Asia-Pacific could cost $110 billion, which is roughly equivalent to half of all losses from natural catastrophes globally in 2018*, according to research from Lloyd’s of London.

These losses could occur in an extreme scenario in which a computer virus infects 15 ports across Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and China, said the report titled, “Shen attack: Cyber risk in Asia Pacific ports.” (The report can be downloaded from Lloyd’s website).

“Shen attack” depicts a plausible scenario in which an attack is launched via a computer virus carried by ships, which then scrambles the cargo database records at major ports and leads to severe disruption. Although the virus only directly affects ports in Asia-Pacific, economic losses would be felt around the world due to the global interconnectivity of the maritime supply chain, the report noted.

Despite the high costs to business and international trade, the report showed that the global economy is underprepared for such an attack with 92% of the total economic costs uninsured, leaving an insurance protection gap of $101 billion. (The report analyzes the costs of the scenario, using three levels of severity. The numbers in this announcement are based on the most severe version of the scenario.)

An attack of this scale targeted at ports would cause substantial economic damage to a wide range of businesses through reduced productivity and consumption, incident response costs, and supply chain disruption.

The report estimated that:

  • Transportation, aviation and aerospace sectors would be the most affected ($28.2 billion of economic losses in total), followed by manufacturing ($23.6 billion) and retail ($18.5 billion).
  • Productivity losses would affect each country that has bilateral trade with the attacked ports. Asia would be the worst affected region, set to lose up to $27 billion in indirect economic losses, followed by $623 million in Europe and $266 million in North America.

Other key findings from the report included:

  • The transportation sector in Singapore would take the biggest economic hit, followed by the same sector in South Korea.
  • Business interruption and contingent business interruption insurance coverages would be the main drivers of the insured losses, amounting to 60% of the loss in the most extreme version of the scenario.
  • Non-affirmative cyber, meaning cyber risk that is not explicitly mentioned in an insurance policy [or silent cyber], would account for up to 57% of the total insured losses.
  • Insurance claims would arise from port operators (50% of insured losses), companies along the supply chain (21% of insured losses), and logistics and cargo handling companies (16% of insured losses).

“We know that the biggest assets for companies are not physical they are intangible. This is confirmed by Lloyd’s latest research, which shows that a single severe cyber attack on Asia’s biggest ports could cause roughly the same economic loss as half of all the natural disasters in the world in 2018,” said John Neal, Lloyd’s CEO.

“With the increasing application of technology and automation, these risks will become even more acute. High levels of underinsurance in Asia, which is also home to nine out of ten of the world’s busiest ports, means that these exposures must be urgently addressed,” he added.

“This new research provides new insights on this fast moving threat to support the creation of new products, services and mitigation strategies and in doing so make businesses and communities more resilient.”

The report was produced by the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies, on behalf of the Cyber Risk Management (CyRiM) project, in partnership with Lloyd’s. The CyRiM project is led by Nanyang Technological University, in collaboration with industry partners and academic experts. Lloyd’s is a founding member of CyRiM.

* Lloyd’s compared the possible cyber loss to natural catastrophe costs, citing Aon’s Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight: 2018 Annual Report, which revealed that a total of 394 natural catastrophes generated economic losses of $225 billion in 2018.

Source: Lloyd’s of London

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