Maple Leaf Foods suffers IT outage after cybersecurity incident

One of the country’s biggest packed meat producers said late Sunday it was experiencing a system outage linked to a cybersecurity incident.

“Upon learning of the incident, Maple Leaf Foods took immediate action and engaged cybersecurity and recovery experts,” the company said in a statement.  “Its team of information systems professionals and third-party experts are working diligently with all available resources to investigate the outage and resolve the situation.

“The company is executing its business continuity plans as it works to restore the impacted systems; however, it expects that full resolution of the outage will take time and result in some operational and service disruptions.”

The company said it will continue to work with all its customers and suppliers to minimize disruptions in order to continue delivering its products.

The statement didn’t immediately say which IT systems were affected. As of Sunday night, the company’s website was up.

UPDATE: In response to a query, a Maple Leaf spokesperson said in an email Monday morning that the outage is creating some operational and service disruptions that vary by business unit, plant, and site. “We will continue to work with all our customers and suppliers to minimize these disruptions as we work to do our best to continue delivering the nutritious food people need,” the new statement said.

“At this time, we are focused on restoring business continuity. We do expect some disruption in our operations and service levels as we work through the restoration process, but our team is deploying our business continuity plan and implementing workarounds to mitigate the impact on our operations and business.”

The food sector has been identified by the federal government for years as a part of the country’s 10 critical infrastructure industries. The government has been working with each of those sectors, encouraging them to improve their cybersecurity.

Most media and political attention have focused on other industries facing cyber attacks, such as the energy, financial and hospital sectors. Ottawa’s proposed Critical Cyber Systems Protection Act, which would impose cybersecurity obligations on certain industries, only covers the transportation, financial, pipeline and telecommunications companies.

However, the farming sector and related food processing companies have been targeted by threat actors. In June, 2021, JBS USA, the American division of the huge international beef producer, admitted it paid the equivalent of US$11 million after a ransomware attack. Production at some meat packing plants, including in Canada, was disrupted. The FBI attributed the attack to the REvil/Sodinokibi group.

In April, the FBI warned the U.S. food and agriculture sectors that ransomware actors may be more likely to attack agricultural co-operatives during critical planting and harvest seasons. The warning noted there were ransomware attacks during these seasons against six grain co-operatives, during the fall 2021 harvest and in early 2022.

In its last quarterly financial report Maple Leaf Foods said it had a net loss of C$54.6 million on sales of C$1.195 billion.

It has two divisions: The Meat Protein Group produces prepared meats, ready-to-cook and ready-to-serve meals, value-added fresh pork and poultry products that are sold to retail, food service and industrial channels, and agricultural operations in pork and poultry. The Plant Protein Group is comprised of refrigerated plant protein products, premium grain-based protein, and vegan cheese products, sold to retail, food service and industrial channels.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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