Seven Steps to Reduce Cybercrime at Food Processing Plants

Aug. 16, 2022
Better preparation will fend off damaging cyberattacks that have damaged food & beverage companies. Here’s what you can do to prepare.

If there’s any take-away from the June 2021 JBS Foods attack it would be: We’re not living in Kansas anymore.

Instead, digital risk permeates every corner of our lives — even those never imagined before. These risks aren’t the same black-and-white, garden variety risks we’ve seen across businesses of all types for years.

Instead, we’ve reached a new frontier. One in which even our food may not be safe. Ransomware and other cyberattacks threaten the viability of any food production facility.

Not only is there a financial or data loss, but any interruption in food production can lead to food safety issues and waste — not to mention lost customers and revenues.

Food processors must focus on increasing their cybersecurity to reduce risk to its business and to the wider industry. Here are seven steps to help improve security and help food processors protect themselves against a devastating cyberattack and how to recover in case of a successful incursion:

  • Do a deep-dive assessment for a baseline understanding of your cybersecurity. Food production is highly automated and data driven. With every part of a food company’s production system traced, tracked and verified electronically, outdated software and systems practically invite bad actors to step in. Knowing what your vulnerabilities are starts with an assessment.
  • Control access and implement multifactor authentication. Employees should only have access to the parts of the network they need to do their jobs. Multifactor authentication and encryption should be mandatory to minimize unauthorized access and passwords being compromised.
  • Human error can be eliminated with strong training. Remind your workforce to take precautions and reiterate key security training concepts. It’s also important to respond to any security incidents promptly.
  • Back up data and test the system. Scanning across the entire network infrastructure, including databases, is critical. If a cyberattack occurs, quick access to data is key to overcoming the issue. Have data redundancy plans in place, such as a production copy, a local copy and a cloud-based copy. However, remember that data doesn’t always get properly backed up or is not always immediately available after a cyberattack.
  • Endpoint detection and response can help. An emerging technology, endpoint detection and response can help address continuous monitoring and response to advance threats. In addition, an automated security protocol can kick people engaging in unusual activity off the network. Other automated vigilance includes spam filters, website blockers and an application list to prevent the installation of unauthorized software.
  • Prepare multiple incident response plans. Incident response plans should define the meaning of an “incident” as well as the people in charge of activating those plans. A response plan should include the names of key stakeholders and what their role is in the event of a breach. Plans also must have guidelines for notifying these stakeholders and include a cyber policy that details how to offset costs and allocate resources post-breach.
  • Offload cyber risk to insurance coverage. Minimizing cyber incidents and their negative effects entails in-house management protocols. However, cyber insurance helps transfer that risk to a third party. Cyber insurance is expensive, and nearly impossible to procure without multifactor authentication or endpoint detection.

Remember that cyber insurance is part of an overall risk management plan, not the risk management plan itself. While we can’t control what perpetrators dream up and act upon, we can actively close the loop on any open and known vulnerabilities in our businesses for a cybercrime scenario. Doing your best to prepare today means increased protection tomorrow.

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