Recently, three Midwestern grain cooperatives experienced a breach within their digitized systems that impacted the flow of operations and the security of their customers’ private data. This series of cyber-attacks occurred after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a notice asking institutions to secure their automated systems and eliminate the potential weak links within their digitized operations. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) tracked ransomware losses that totaled up to $30 million in 2020, from 2,474 formally lodged complaints.
Ransomware is a type of software (malware) that hackers deploy to encrypt files and block users from accessing them by locking the device. Typically, sensitive private information gets extracted during this process, and the hackers demand a payment in exchange for not publicizing the data. Although there are various measures to keep cyberattacks at bay, more organizations are partnering with third-party providers to test the efficiency of their cybersecurity systems.
Food safety managers may find these opportunities for improvement beneficial to strengthening their food safety and quality management systems.
Create Awareness about Digital Food Safety
Even though employees use different devices to communicate with one another, they may not clearly understand what phishing emails are, nor be able to identify them. Phishing emails are forged communications that appear to come from a trusted source but can penetrate the security systems and create a breach. Sometimes, all it takes is one link from an email to create a breach within a secure digital environment. Food safety managers, HACCP team leaders, and others in charge can set the foundation by creating an awareness of the subject. Team meetings are a good time to engage in more conversations around securing digital assets and systems.
Test the Efficiency of Existing Systems
There are different ways to test the safety of an existing security system. A common approach is to employ third-party organizations to attempt to breach the system. Other methods involve working with professionals either internally or externally to create assessments that test the employees. Testing the established system’s efficiency goes beyond upgrading the firewall or anti-virus systems. Monitoring employee behavior while handling access badges, accompanying visitors within the premises and exiting the facility can also be used to evaluate the strength of the existing security system.
Integrate Risk Assessments
One of the many benefits to updating risk assessments and HACCP plans is that they can serve as maps to analyze current and future threats. While the traditional approach to risk assemssment primarily focuses on biological, physical, chemical, and allergenic hazards, it’s time to include additional parameters such as technology risks.
Co-creating a safety culture in partnership with the IT department may help food safety managers identify possible risks that may have been overlooked.
Involve Vendors and Contractors
Where possible and applicable, invite the vendors and contractors to be a part of this initiative. Having them assess their own security networks will encourage them to remain proactive regarding shorter response times to crises.