Toyota is suspending production at its 14 plants in Japan to deal with a “system malfunction” that is suspected to be a cyberattack.
The matter serves as a warning for all consumers that cyberattacks are now a feature of modern warfare and could play a potentially severe role in crippling economies worldwide.
A Toyota supplier, Kojima Industries, alerted the carmaker to what it said was a problem with its computer servers.
The issue is preventing Kojima plants from monitoring production or communicating with Toyota facilities.
“This has never happened before,” Tomohiro Takayama, a Kojima spokesman, told the Associated Press. “We are not sure yet if it is a cyberattack, but we suspect it might be one.”
Kojima supplies Toyota with a wide variety of parts and components, including for vehicles’ air-conditioning and steering systems.
The FBI warned U.S. businesses last week that they should step up their defenses against possible ransomware attacks in which hackers take control of computer systems and demand payment — typically in crypto currency — to restore functionality.
U.S. banks received a similar warning from multiple agencies that Russia may seek to destabilize America’s financial system as part of its invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. utilities are also on alert for possible cyberattacks intended to disrupt power and water services.
“We have good insight into Russian capabilities, or those of aligned actors, based on past actions, so we’ve approached this with those in mind,” one official told CNN.
For consumers, these warnings underline the danger of attacks aimed at disrupting or even derailing the economy.
The intent would be to cause shortages and higher prices, which could help pressure American politicians to keep their distance from overseas conflicts.
There’s not much ordinary folk can do about this. All we can do is hope that the businesses we rely on for daily services are being diligent in fortifying their digital defenses.
If nothing else, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and it’s online meddling in past U.S. elections, show that this is a new world when it comes to keeping the country safe.
Delayed shipments of new Toyotas may show just how vulnerable we all are.