IT Security | Production & Industry 4.0

Cyber hygiene in food production

10. May 2023, Avatar of Michael WeyerMichael Weyer

Food production worldwide is a complex process that is as reliant on proper health and hygiene practices as it is on cyber hygiene. It also has a far-reaching impact on nearly every aspect of the US and global economy. Recent attacks on major food producers highlight not only the industry’s risks and low level of cyber preparedness, but also the need for an integrated approach to secure both IT and OT infrastructure.

In short

  • Accounting for more than 20% of the US economy, the food and agricultural sector is one of the country’s designated areas of critical infrastructure encompassing more than 2 million farms, 935,000 restaurants and 200,000 manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities.
  • Repeated warnings about cyber vulnerabilities highlight the industry’s heavy reliance on IT and OT systems, low level of cyber preparedness, and the impact of an increasing number of attacks that led in production shutdowns, supply shortages and price spikes.
  • UEM solutions help food producers and related companies improve IT and OT practices and cyber-resilience with an integrated approach to cybersecurity.

Multiple warnings about the vulnerability of IT and OT systems used to optimize food production and reduce waste came into sharp focus in mid-2021. That’s when JBS Foods, the world’s largest meat processing company, ceased production for a day after a ransomware attack. It was a high-profile example of a growing number of cyberattacks in 2021 that affected large companies including Arizona Beverage, Molson Coors and Schreiber Foods as well as smaller producers. Attacks spiked again in late 2022 and early 2023 with breaches reported at Maple Leaf Foods and Dole Foods.

An April 2023 story in Wired magazine stated that cybersecurity experts recorded 300 ransomware attacks on US food and agriculture companies in the past three years, compounded by what experts say is a widespread lack of resources and established practices to combat a increased cyber threats.

Automated production prevents expensive downtime

Ultimately, our modern diet is dependent on the automated and efficient production, processing and distribution of food using advanced sensors and industrial control systems (ICS). Each system represents another potential attack surface for criminal hackers and greater security management challenges for IT teams.

Attacks on ICS and back-office IT systems can halt production and require extended and expensive recovery and restoration times. Those risks also extend to farming equipment, feed and HVAC systems for farm animals, fertilizer supplies, and consumer food supplies.

Reducing vulnerabilities in both IT and OT infrastructure requires regular updates and, if necessary, rapid patching. But how can overburdened IT teams address these needs effectively without further increasing workloads?

UEM supports improved security and compliance

Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) can provide the tools and automation needed to help IT managers manage vulnerabilities within an integrated system of regular maintenance for all devices including PCs, smartphones, tablets and smart manufacturing systems.

UEM provides:

  • A clear overview of all network endpoints, their status, and the software installed on each one.
  • Improved protection of all devices thanks to automated patching and software distribution.
  • Faster detection and responses to malware infections through continuous device inventory and monitoring.
  • Consistent implementation of appropriate access rights, installation of certificates and compliance with corporate IT security policies. 

Once these measures have been implemented with our baramundi Management Suite (bMS), for example, companies in the food industry can raise their IT and OT security preparedness, operational resilience and – importantly – the reliability and security of the food we all eat.

bMS protects food production

Companies in the food industry bear special responsibility for people’s health. Countering cybersecurity risks is a technical and financial challenge with far-reaching implications. baramundi helps you address these challenges.

Read more about our comprehensive and integrated solutions here.

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