Food and beverage manufacturing plants are the global food industry's giants, transforming basic agricultural supplies into mass-market goods all over the world. Meat alone accounted for roughly 24% of all food and beverage shipments in the United States in 2019.
Last year's cyber attack on JBS, one of the world’s largest meat processors, had such an impact. It supplies nearly one-fifth of the meat consumed in the US and Canada and many retailers experienced shortages as the company worked to recover. Closing one plant down has a direct impact on a much wider population.
Food is being increasingly computerized from farm to fork, owing to a growing worldwide population. Food processing and delivery will grow increasingly reliant on technology, from the use of smart devices to monitor and automate crop and animal activities to the introduction of vertical farms.
Food security is becoming more susceptible as a result of this digital transition. Computers are frequently used in food-production facilities to monitor storage temperatures, and many of these systems use antiquated software and operating systems. If they are tampered with, the whole food supply in a warehouse would become unsafe to eat.
The rapid digital transformation of many food industries during the pandemic has resulted in the convergence of IT and operational technology (OT) networks, which has increased the danger. Data centres and on-premises systems are no longer enough; cloud-computing networks and the edge must also be protected.
The food business can defend itself in a number of ways. To begin, many legacy systems must be updated to meet modern security standards. Outdated OT is particularly vulnerable, as it was built without security in mind and is frequently incompatible with today's software and security solutions. If these are compromised, they can result in substantial operational failures and even entire shutdowns.
Second, the industry must identify vulnerabilities and apply patches as needed. The biggest worries for most organizations, regardless of sector, are ransomware, advanced persistent threats, supply-chain assaults, targeted phishing, and risks to OT and Internet of Things settings. With legacy, signature-based security, attacks on the supply chain – which account for the majority of those in the food business – are practically impossible to detect. Malicious software can be packaged as legitimate and supplied directly into the centre of the organization, evading detection by rules-based procedures.
Third, in order to address risks, businesses will increasingly have to rely on technology rather than humans. Artificial intelligence, for example, which can function at machine speed and take autonomous action, will be required to identify threats and react quickly to stop a breach.
Finally, in order to collaborate and avoid these attacks, the food industry will need to strengthen information sharing across state lines and international borders.
Cyber threats on the food industry will only grow in 2022. We will see food scarcity, higher pricing, and the potential selling of poisoned food if the business does not address its cyber problem. Organizations will realize that they must keep up with and respond to threats in real-time, rather than waiting until it is too late to respond to breaches.
Does your manufacturing plant need help with cybersecurity? Our IT engineers are ready to help you and well-versed in the technology and industry that surrounds it. Schedule your Complimentary Business Systems Assessment today!