Reports swirl after parent of Sobey’s supermarkets admits ‘IT systems issue’

One of Canada’s biggest supermarket chains was hit a week ago by the Black Basta strain of ransomware, according to a news site.

BleepingComputer made the claim today after seeing ransom notes on Empire Company Ltd. devices and viewing negotiation chats. Headquartered in New Brunswick, Empire pulls $30.5 billion in annualized sales through its Sobeys, Safeway, Foodland and IGA supermarkets and other assets.

On November 7th Empire issued a statement saying it had been “impacted by an IT systems issue.” Since then it has been silent about what happened, refusing to comment to media inquiries.  

It did say on November 7th that the company’s grocery stores remain open to serve customers and are not experiencing significant disruptions at this time. “However,” the statement acknowledged, “some in-store services are functioning intermittently or with a delay. In addition, certain of the company’s pharmacies are experiencing technical difficulties in fulfilling prescriptions.”

Empire said in that statement that while it is “making significant progress in reducing the impact of this disruption, at this time it is unable to determine when all issues affecting its systems will be fully resolved.”

According to the Toronto Star, privacy watchdogs in Alberta and Quebec have been notified by the company.

One poster on Twitter, whose identity couldn’t be confirmed, said in a tweet, “Payroll is working. The scheduling system that fuels payroll is down, but they are getting paychecks going as we speak. My staff certainly won’t be working if their pay doesn’t go through, I can guess that much …. Also, our staff isn’t saying anything because we aren’t being told anything.”

Another wrote, “I saw the ransomware message. It said our files were locked and would be posted online if payment wasn’t received. It gave a website and passcode where one file could be downloaded for free. This was on Friday November 4th.”

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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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