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In today's interconnected world, where technology plays a pivotal role in every facet of food production, distribution, and consumption, ensuring the security of our food supply chains is essential for consumer and brand protection. That's why we put together the highly anticipated session at Virtual reCONNECT 2023—Guarding the Gate: Cybersecurity’s Crucial Role in the Food Industry.
The day three reCONNECT session was hosted by Katy Jones and Kristin Demoranville, CEO & Founder of AnzenSage. With Kristin's unique perspective at the forefront of safeguarding critical systems in the food industry against cyber threats, attendees gained invaluable insights into the evolving cybersecurity landscape within the food sector.
A Digitized Food Industry Requires Secure Data
The digitization of the food industry has unlocked a world of possibilities. Everything from streamlined supply chains to enhanced consumer experiences through online shopping have transformed the way consumers and businesses interact. But while digital transformations offer numerous benefits, including transparency and enhanced efficiency, they also open the doors for potential cyber threats. The more digitized the industry becomes, the more food companies need to protect our food supply chains from cyber threats.
"I think it's amazing how innovative the food industry as a whole really is with technology," Kristin opened up the discussion. "And while these technologies have really great benefits, the problem is that it's going too quickly that we're not being able to create security when designing these solutions. As a result, the food industry specifically has been underneath a lot of ransomware attacks."
"Unfortunately, while people are often trained on the basic level about cybersecurity, like at a minimum what phishing is or ransomware, there's a really big gap and disconnect between how they respond in the moment to attacks. To be resilient through it and know the steps is the challenge."
But cybersecurity threats can also come from outside your operations. As Kristin elaborated: "On top of that, you have third-party supply chain hacks. Say, if a partner factory makes the strawberry jelly you use as an ingredient, gets hit with a breach, that could potentially affect you as well, since your systems are interconnected. And the scariest part is, you don't know what you don't know!"
From IoT to Proprietary Recipes, A Lot is at Stake
The sheer amount of data in the food industry creates unique challenges for understanding what is at stake. While some companies may be worried about data breaches to their financial operations, there are other departments and data breaches that are at risk. "People may not realize that recipes are considered the 'crown jewel' of data," Kristin shared. "Imagine getting the coveted recipe for your favorite junk foods; people fight over that in the industry!"
"Additionally, there are so many IoT devices that are in a network and are not designed with security in mind. So unfortunately, we have to treat those items like a candy wrapper, creating the security after the fact to wrap around the device. But these breaches in data can also cause safety issues, which is why it's so important to put cybersecurity in the same realm as developing food safety culture."
Proactive Cybersecurity Starts with Knowledge
The cybersecurity landscape is always evolving, as cyber threats find new vulnerabilities, and companies race to minimize the impacts and prevent future attacks. Preparing for every possible avenue may seem overwhelming, but understanding how to guard your business against cyber threats is vital. Additionally, consumers’ want more visibility and transparency in their supply chain, and prioritizing cybersecurity shows a commitment to safeguarding customers.
If you’re involved in any aspect of the food industry, whether a producer, distributor, or stakeholder, you need to consider how your business can protect itself from cyber threats. Especially as many businesses move to digital traceability recordkeeping for FSMA 204 compliance, they will need to consider how their digital solutions can be protected.
But as Kristin said, "You don't know what you don't know!" Recently in the food industry, a few businesses have fallen victim to cybersecurity breaches, and Kristin shared how these examples can help businesses prepare today.
"Consumers do care about cybersecurity disruptions. And sometimes the bigger the breach, the bigger the disruption on the market. One company breach even impacted the distribution of meat to grocery stores, resulting in a meat shortage in Australia. Another attack in the US resulted in a company being unable to move livestock anywhere, which limited the slaughter line, which caught animals in a cramped environment, stressed out, and potentially increasing the chance of disease transmission or other food safety concerns. These breaches trickle down to food safety. Ultimately, they can cost tens of millions of dollars, both in paying the ransom for the data, and in the clean up afterwards. It can be really detrimental for a brand."
Wrapping Cybersecurity into Food Safety Culture
"The integration between cybersecurity and food safety culture is paramount," shared Katy Jones. "So you offer compliance training for cybersecurity awareness, but what else can companies do?"
Kristin believes companies should take cybersecurity a step further. "It can be done with some simple steps of covering protocols when a ransomware attack happens, so people don't panic. Then, empower your employees to make the right decisions quickly and not help it spread any further. The attacks can replicate so easily, so preventing that is crucial."
"Change management is super important too. Invite your quality teams, food protection, IT, and change management teams to the table. They all need to understand what technology is coming into the company, the security of that tech, access controls, how it's going to be used, and the protocols in place to protect the data it captures or what it's connected to in your company. Everybody needs to be brought into the discussion and it needs to happen early."
Rewatch reCONNECT 2023 Sessions Today!
At reCONNECT, attendees had the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the industry, including Kristin Demoranville with AnzenSage. As a leading food industry cybersecurity expert, Kristin’s expertise can help you establish a baseline to understand the importance of cybersecurity in the industry.
If you missed the live reCONNECT event, don't worry. You can still hear from industry leaders by registering today for Virtual reCONNECT 2023 and checking your email for the exclusive invite link and password. Hear from Kristin, as well as a range of industry experts, and learn how to grow and protect your business with these essential discussions.