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Securing the Food Supply: Industrial Cybersecurity in the Food and Beverage Sector

May 03, 2024

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The integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions into production lines enhances quality, efficiency, and compliance with the high food safety standards demanded by consumers. However, as food and beverage companies increasingly automate and optimize operations across production, processing, distribution, and retail, new vulnerabilities emerge that cybercriminals can exploit.

Recent events, such as the ransomware attack on meat packaging giant JBS that forced it offline, underscore the vulnerabilities within the industry. These incidents reveal a growing trend of cybercriminals targeting the food supply chain, elevating the importance of securing national agricultural sectors and food supply chains against both domestic and international threats. Despite a growing awareness of cybersecurity threats within the sector, awareness alone is not enough; the food and beverage manufacturing industry must continue to assiduously bolster its cyber defenses. This necessitates not only the adoption of advanced cybersecurity measures but also a comprehensive strategy.

This publication unpacks the various aspects of the food and beverage industry in relation to cybersecurity. The angles we explore are:

  1. Cyber Threats: The food, beverage, and agriculture sectors have become targets for cyber threats at an increasing rate, with 2021 standing out as the most severe. Alarmingly, this uptick did not have a corresponding decrease in the following years, remaining at a high level to the present day.
  2. Global Legislation: Both the U.S. and the EU have stepped up their support of cyber defenses in the agriculture and food sectors by enacting regulations on an unprecedentedly comprehensive level.
  3. Challenges Impacting Cyber Resilience: The food sector, in particular, presents a unique complexity when it comes to implementation of cybersecurity measures due to the diverse array of stages it encompass: from third-party suppliers (typically farmers), product delivery and food processing by manufacturers, and intricate distribution networks. This sector’s increasing automation and digitalization have made each link in the food supply chain all the more susceptible to threats.
  4. Best Practices: Constructively, this publication also offers a roadmap forward for the food and beverage industry, illustrating in granular fashion the key tenets for strengthening cybersecurity in the food and beverage industry and mapping these tenets to viable solutions.
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