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Transnet fully restores port operations after cyber attack

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Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan has commended Transnet employees for their hard work in restoring full operations at the ports after a security breach on Thursday.

Transnet has managed to fully restore operations at the ports, which enables the country’s supply chain and logistics system to resume normal operations.

The return to operations is good news for the economy, as the Transnet ports and rail system are the backbone of the economy, says Gordhan.

Earlier this week, Transnet said significant progress had been made in restoring its IT systems, with most of the affected applications up on Monday.

The state-owned company issued a statement giving an update on the disruption of its IT systems since last week.

Although Transnet has not officially acknowledged that it fell victim to a cyber attack, it reportedly confirmed so, as Transnet Port Terminals declared force majeure on Monday after the incident.

According to Gordhan, the preliminary assessment of the cyber attack indicates that Transnet and its customer data has not been compromised.

Investigations are under way into the events and due process will take place.

Imports and exports

The state-owned company points out the main system responsible for the container operations, the NAVIS N4 terminal operating system, has been fully restored and customers are now able to access the customer links to facilitate imports and exports.

The remaining systems will continue to be brought up in a staggered manner to minimise further risks and interruptions.

“Transnet Port Terminals, in collaboration with the shipping lines, is facilitating the evacuation of urgent containers for the automotive, FMCG and agricultural sectors,” Transnet says in a statement.

As of last night, it notes the Durban container terminals were fully functional on NAVIS, with a few other interface systems progressing well.

This has brought back both the waterside and land-side operations, and the truck booking system was activated on Wednesday.

The company notes the vessels are operating alongside the berths, and the shipping lines and cargo owners have partnered with the terminal management to ensure efficiencies are increasing.

In the Eastern Cape, the container operations working with some of the IT functionalities are still being restored and the vessels are working in parallel with the manual processes.

The Western Cape is fully restored and some of the IT functions are still being restored, says Transnet.

By today, it adds, the stack registration will be complete, and this will speed up the evacuation of containers in the Cape Town terminal.

Data has not been compromised in all the Transnet operations, says the company.

It explains that the bulk, break bulk and automotive sectors, which include iron ore, coal and manganese, cars and some of the agricultural commodities that use the General Cargo system, switched immediately to manual.

“This resulted in minimal operational disruptions in these operations across the port system. Rail operations also continue to run on schedule, as per the train plan. Business continuity plans are in place to ensure safe operations during this time,” it notes.

Gordhan started interactions with customers jointly with Transnet management and they established a platform for engagement with CEOs and senior representatives of affected companies.

The shipping lines, accounting for 70% of the cargo moving across the ports, have given the assurance that the South African ports will not be bypassed and they will continue to work with Transnet during this recovery period.

“Government commends the leadership of the affected companies for their patience while Transnet worked to restore full operations. Credit goes to the Transnet IT teams who have ensured that the systems are restored within a week,” Transnet says.

Transnet points out it is accelerating the work on strengthening the weaknesses identified in its IT environment.

According to the firm, the force majeure is currently in place and under review, with the intention to lift it in the coming days.

“The speedy recovery has mitigated against the possible job losses that may have been threatened by a prolonged disruption to the IT systems,” it says.

Lax security

Meanwhile, opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) says the recent cyber attack on Transnet’s IT system is a further display of the failure of national state security intelligence to protect SA’s key sectors, and one that stands to negatively impact the Western Cape economy.

“I have submitted a parliamentary question to the provincial minister of finance and economic opportunities, David Maynier, regarding the anticipated cost that this will inflict on the provincial economy,” says Deidré Baartman, DA’s Western Cape spokesperson on finance, economic opportunities and tourism.

“While Transnet might consider this a force majeure, the broader situation speaks to negligence on the part of state security to the extent that a cyber attack could disrupt shipping routes in South Africa.

“Our national state security intelligence has, in just the last month, failed South Africans. Despite evidence to suggest an attempted insurgence, national government was unable to stop mass looting across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which has cost the country severely.

“In today’s climate, where cyber security has become as important as physical security, and with our ports moving billions of rands worth of goods every year, the lack of agility to act on threats is deeply concerning,” says Baartman.

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