What Can the Food and Beverage Industry Learn from the Molson Coors Cyberattack?

Molson Coors Beverage Company (Molson Coors) recently disclosed that it suffered a cyberattack that forced its beer production to come to a screeching halt...

What Can the Food and Beverage Industry Learn from the Molson Coors Cyberattack?

What Can the Food and Beverage Industry Learn from the Molson Coors Cyberattack?

<strong>Molson Coors Beverage Company (Molson Coors) recently disclosed that it suffered a cyberattack that forced its beer production to come to a screeching halt.</strong>..

Author: Corey L. LaBrutto|March 31, 2021

Molson Coors Beverage Company (Molson Coors) recently disclosed that it suffered a cyberattack that forced its beer production to come to a screeching halt. The incident highlights why robust cybersecurity is so important in the food and beverage industry.

Molson Coors Cyberattack Results in Systems Outage

Molson Coors disclosed the cyberattack in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to the 8-K filing, the incident, which caused a “systems outage,” occurred on March 11, 2021. In the wake of the cyberattack, Molson Coors “engaged leading forensic information technology firms and legal counsel to assist the Company’s investigation into the incident,” the filing stated.

“The company is working around the clock to get its systems back up as quickly as possible,” the company said in its filing. “Although the company is actively managing this cybersecurity incident, it has caused and may continue to cause a delay or disruption to parts of the company’s business, including its brewery operations, production and shipments.”

Food and Beverage Industry Has Unique Cyber Risks

As we have discussed in prior articles, cybercrime has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting businesses in all sectors. The food and beverage industry is no exception—Brown-Forman, which owns Jack Daniel’s; Lion, an Australian alcoholic beverage company; and Italy’s Licya Campari Group all fell victim in the past year.

Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common in the food and beverage industry as cybercriminals discover they can score large paydays by disrupting the critical business operations of large industrial companies. While Molson Coors has not yet disclosed the nature of its cyber incident, many security experts suspect it fell victim to ransomware.

According to a recent report by Claroty, an industrial cybersecurity company, the food and agriculture sector experienced a fifty-six percent (56%) increase in industrial control system (ICS) vulnerabilities from 2019 to 2020. “Given the round-the-clock nature of operations in food and beverage companies, much of the IT equipment in manufacturing plants can’t be patched frequently, making these assets a prime target for attacks such as ransomware, which can seize up operations abruptly with a dramatic cost to the enterprise,” Grant Geyer, Claroty’s Chief Product Officer, told Industry Week.

As cyber risks increase, continuous threat monitoring of all IT systems is essential. Businesses should also ensure that operating systems, software, and firmware are patched as soon as manufacturers release updates. Employees can also play a critical role in combatting cyberattacks, often thwarting an attack before it takes down your systems. However, as ransomware attacks become more sophisticated, workers need to be trained on the latest threats. For instance, while ransomware attacks initially relied on email messages that were clearly identifiable as spam, hackers are now using phishing schemes that make emails appear to come from a known contact.

With prevention as the goal, businesses should also plan for an inevitable attack. Because it can take time to recover from a cyberattack and restore normal operations, it’s important to plan for the possibility of critical information systems being inaccessible for an extended period of time. Creating, maintaining, and exercising a basic cyber incident response plan can help businesses recover more quickly, as everyone involved knows their role and can immediately start to “work the plan” to regain normal business operations.

Business continuity plans are also invaluable. While many plans address how to continue critical business operations in the face of a flood, power disruption, or other disaster, cyberattacks are not always addressed. A good starting point is to determine all the potential threats to your business operations posed by a cyberattack, rank the severity of each business disruption, and devise a plan to address each risk.

Key Takeaway

As Molson Coors learned the hard way, a cyberattack can significantly disrupt production and distribution. Since it is not always possible to thwart an attack, it is essential to have policies and procedures in place to get systems back up and running as quickly as possible. Food and beverage companies should use this latest incident as motivation to thoroughly review their cybersecurity and business continuity plans to ensure they address current and emerging risks.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Corey LaBrutto, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.

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About Author Corey L. LaBrutto

Corey L. LaBrutto

Corey L. LaBrutto is a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s litigation practice group who primarily focuses her practice on handling matters relating to commercial litigation. Ms. Labrutto has several years of experience handling a wide variety of commercial litigation matters, as well as intellectual property disputes. She is also experienced in representing clients in numerous contract disputes and general business law matters.

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