When we think about cyber threats, we rarely think that they can cause real, physical damage. In reality, advanced cyber attacks can have real-life consequences; they can affect our supply chains, our access to certain essential resources, even our food. A recent attack on Brazil’s meatpacker JBS, which forced the company to shut down several of its plants, cost the company $11 million. This incident has reopened the conversation about the dangers of automated food production processes. We are now facing the real possibility that hackers may be able to tamper with our food, causing irreversible damage. So what do we really know about the potential cyber threats to the food industry?
How Are Cyber Security And Food Connected?
Since most food plants are highly automated, computers are now controlling the process, at least for the most part. This includes monitoring the temperature, the ingredients in the recipes, and much more. This means that when these computers are vulnerable and they don’t use a virtual private network (VPN), if an unauthorized person gets access to these computers, they can control what happens to the food produced at the plant.
They can temper with the ingredients and internal process, leading to unsafe, hazardous foods on the shelves at the supermarkets and eventually our homes. Hackers could even shut down the separate systems within the food plants, for example, damaging the cooling systems in the factory, leading to spoiled food and shortages. To avoid all this, most companies dependent on smart technology should always use a VPN. Although there are a number of VPN providers, choosing the right one is quite simple. The best way to find the best VPN service for a specific company is to read some reviews online.
This issue is especially pressing for big chains with a formula for all their establishments. This is where one mistake could have consequences that spread across the country, even across the world in some rare but significant cases. If an unauthorized person changes the formula again, they can do so without leaving any traces behind.
This means that the plant or a chain will continue to function, business as usual, meanwhile their formula is completely off, it may even be hazardous. So implementing higher security standards in the food industry is an essential next step for every plant and big company that uses automation in their production processes.
Why Aren’t More People Talking About It?
What’s challenging about this particular realm of cyber security is that the food industry isn’t the most popular target for hackers worldwide, but this trend seems to be changing. While there weren’t as many highly automated food plants or supply chains in the past, the digitization of production processing has become a universal phenomenon. The food industry is one of the most crucial parts of our global system, and it is becoming more vulnerable to the threats we would usually associate with financial and retail sectors.
These risks can be seen at an individual level as well, with farmers using GPS to fertilize their land and optimize yield. If these systems turn out to be faulty or compromised, then an entire industry will feel the effects. It might even be used as a weapon in international warfare to destroy the adversary’s supply chains and food supplies.
The JBS plant attack signifies that the food companies are not immune to cyberattacks, and the consequences of having weak security in this industry are far more brutal than in any other field. Not only is the industry vulnerable to disruptions to its supply chains, but now we also have to worry about what actually goes into our food, whether or not the machine instructions are authentic and safe.
While it may seem like cyber security and the food industry do not cross over in any capacity, these days, cyber threats are a real danger to any field and any industry that relies on automation, IoT and generally uses smart technology to get the job done. This is why having a solid security system in place and staying aware of the real dangers will become crucial for the food industry in the upcoming years.