Industry Spotlight: Safeguarding the Food and Beverage Plant Floors

When Abbott Nutrition voluntarily shut down a facility on February 17th due to contaminated products, it ignited a frenzy. Parents and caregivers were left scrambling to get their hands on baby formula as a shortage ensued. Not only did this crisis expose the fact that industries such as baby formula production are controlled by just a few in the United States, but it also demonstrated the chaos that can occur if a single plant is closed. While this case was not caused by a cyberattack, it is easy to imagine that a network breach could create just as much disruption. So, as we recover from this event and look for lessons, we need to implement measures that would prevent such an occurrence from happening again. And a major step we can take is to strengthen food and beverage plant floor cybersecurity.

Cyberattacks on the Food and Beverage Industry

We have plenty of examples that point to the food and beverage industry as a target for cybercriminals. Last year, leading meat manufacturer, JBS, was hit with a cyberattack that impacted its North American and Australian IT systems. The incident, which was connected to Russian group REvil, ended up costing the company $11m in ransom payment.

But JBS isn’t the only company to have gone through such an experience. Molson Coors Beverage Co., Mondelez International and Wendy’s have all had to deal with the effects of being cyber targets. And, in April, HP Hood Dairy was forced to take plants offline when it fell victim to a ransomware attack. While the outcome of that was fairly harmless resulting in short-term delays in delivery of products like Lactaid, it did speak to the larger trend. Production and distribution systems are vulnerable and when disturbed can impact customers’ lives.

Considering the rise in ransomware and the proven monetary gain that hackers get from compromising food and beverage companies, it’s likely that this trend will remain a concern through the rest of 2022 and beyond if changes aren’t made.

Adopting Cybersecurity Strategies for Food and Beverage Plants

Coupling awareness around the attacks that have already occurred with a growing understanding of risks associated with the transition to technology like IoT, operators are becoming savvier to the need for cybersecurity. According to a report Powder & Bulk Solids written by John S. Forrester, “40% of consumer products industry executives recently surveyed by Deloitte say their companies plan to make significant investments to improve consumer data privacy and cybersecurity in 2022.” There have also been pushes such as Australia’s Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure Protection) Act 2022, which expands critical infrastructure security requirements to food and beverage organizations.

However, more needs to be done. A crucial part of improving cybersecurity approaches in this sector is putting it at the root of industrial design. This is particularly important as systems across the board are combined for efficiency. If cybersecurity is top of mind throughout all this implementation, facilities will be more prepared. Taking on this type of proactive mindset also includes proper training. Offering employees opportunities to learn more about the threat landscape that exists and best practices to follow helps to instill cybersecurity in company culture.

GlobalData recently highlighted food and beverage companies that are adopting such measures. Through a scoring system, the analytics firm ranked those that are leading in cybersecurity efforts. Topping its list were names like Nestlé, Arla Foods and Ferrero. For instance, Nestlé has developed partnerships that allow it to build tools that prevent cyberattacks and detect threats such as phishing attempts.

For other manufacturing and plant floor protective resources, make sure to review cybersecurity products and services offered by DYNICS.

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