Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Blockchain could have prevented Maersk Line cyber attack, claims MTI

Steve Rogerson
September 12, 2017



The recent Maersk Line cyber attack could have been prevented with blockchain technology, believes New York and London-based logistics technology company Marine Transport International (MTI). In a pilot project, it demonstrated that the logistics industry could see improved connectivity, efficiency and security by adopting blockchain.
 
MTI and Agility Sciences have released a whitepaper detailing the deployment of their Container Streams system in a supply chain environment. The results of the pilot that took place in July this year have been verified by scientists at the University of Copenhagen and maritime technology leads at Blockchain Labs for Open Collaboration (Bloc).
 
“We have documented the first phase of this use case, its implications for the maritime industry and the resulting development of a turn-key application ecosystem for global supply chain logistics,” said Deanna MacDonald, CEO of Bloc. “However, the future potential of this ecosystem platform will rest upon collaboration from the different actors in these supply chains in order to clearly identify the problems and co-create applications that solve for the collective challenges they are facing today.”
 
The project, which has connected supplier, shipper, load point, customs and terminal at locations in North America, Europe and China on a shared blockchain ledger, has far reaching consequences for the logistics industry as it seeks new ways to improve security and profitability.
 
All parties involved in the supply chain benefit from automated data flows as the system allows complete interoperability of data sources, even including legacy systems.
 
“The results of this successful pilot demonstrate the strengths of blockchain technology when deployed to link the various actors in the supply chain,” said Jody Cleworth, CEO of MTI. “We are confident that firms throughout the logistics industry will see a broad spectrum of benefits stemming from blockchain deployment.”
 
He said the blockchain had proven to be “an excellent way” of connecting the different parties involved in any supply chain environment due to the transparency and security-by-design of the technology. In recent months the shipping industry has fallen victim to industrial-scale cyber attacks that have left large shipping lines, such as Maersk, completely paralysed and unable to serve clients.
 
“A blockchain-enabled supply chain is highly resilient to cyber attack,” he said.
 
A copy of the essential shipping data is stored on each node on a decentralised network, meaning that even if one node is compromised, the data are nevertheless safe.
 
“The business case for connecting supply chains using blockchain is very strong,” said Cleworth. “As the interface is easily adaptable to existing systems there is a very low barrier to entry. Any type of supply chain business, be it marine, air or land based, can take advantage of such a system – the cost savings that we envisage are as high as 90%, as a result of substantially streamlined processes.”
 
The DLT system was a proprietary system created by Agility Sciences. An important feature of the Container Streams system, however, is its interoperability; its built-in adapter can connect to any blockchain protocol such as the bitcoin blockchain and ethereum.
 
The technology links up the various members of the marine supply chain – weigh bridge operator, customers, freight forwarder and so on – on one digital blockchain ledger system that allows one version of the shipping documentation to be accessed in real time by all parties.
 
This is a bit like a Google document whereby those who are invited to the document can edit and view it with everyone else. However due to the security-by-design of the blockchain, they are much more secure than a Google document The blocks of data are cryptographically linked creating an immutable ledger that is invulnerable to hacking.
 
An MTI spokesperson said the Maersk Line outage resulting from NotPetya ransomware could have been avoided using a blockchain system as not only is it cryptographically secured, it is also distributed, meaning that a copy of the ledger is stored on each computer that makes up the blockchain network.
 
The pilot was validated by the University of Copenhagen and Bloc and used data from Increase Computers’ Fred software, the most widely used recycling software in the UK.
 
“This pilot demonstrates the great potential for distributed ledger technologies to be used in improving supply chain processes,” said Karim Jabbar from the department of computer science at the University of Copenhagen. “The Container Streams system is unique in the fact that it does not require the complete replacement of existing systems. Instead, MTI’s solution allows complete interoperability with existing legacy infrastructure. The logistics industry as a whole can expect better visibility, connectivity and cost savings as a result of distributed ledger adoption.”
 
Maersk, meanwhile, has been working with consultancy Ernst & Young, security firm Guardtime and Microsoft to develop a blockchain platform for the marine insurance sector.
 
The global blockchain platform connects clients, brokers, insurers and third parties to distributed common ledgers that capture data about identities, risk and exposures, and integrates this information with insurance contracts. The platform’s capabilities include the ability to create and maintain asset data from multiple parties; to link data to policy contracts; to receive and act upon information that results in a pricing or a business process change; to connect client assets, transactions and payments; and to capture and validate up-to-date first notification or loss data.