After discovering the breach, Maple Leaf Foods immediately engaged cyber security and recovery experts.

On Sunday, Maple Leaf Foods confirmed that it suffered a cyber security incident resulting in a temporary system outage and operational disruptions.

Maple Leaf Foods serves as Canada’s largest prepared meats and poultry producer, maintaining 21 manufacturing facilities, 14,000 staff members, and over 700 barns. With headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario, the firm generated $3.3 billion in sales last year.

Maple Leaf Foods offers a variety of food products under leading brand names, including Maple Leaf, Maple Leaf Prime, Maple Leaf Natural Selections, Country Naturals, Lightlife, Field Roast, and Schneider’s.

Incident investigation

Although the incident occurred over a weekend, the Canadian food producer says that its IT team rushed into action. “This is not something that is unexpected in industry today…I feel very confident in the team of people that we have in place to ensure the continuity of the business,” said Chief Executive Michael McCain.

The corresponding cyber security investigation remains in-progress. Maple Leaf Foods has yet to release details surrounding how the incident occurred and which IT systems were affected.

Thus far, researchers have not found any announcements on cyber crime forums or ransomware gang portals pertaining to Maple Leaf Foods.

More information

Facilities were open and operating the day after the attack, but problems persisted and manual work-arounds were required. As of Tuesday, issues lingered. The protracted length of restoration time suggests that a ransomware attack may have occurred.

The firm is executing its business continuity plans, anticipating that full resolution of the outage may take time. Some service disruptions are expected, however the company is working closely with customers and suppliers to minimize disruptions.

Food sector security

Agriculture is a critical element in sustaining healthy populations and in sustaining regional economies. In turn, federal governments around the world list the food sector as part of critical infrastructure industries. In general, governments and private firms are collaborating on policies and procedures to advance the sector’s cyber security.

Nonetheless, the farming sector has seen a series of high-profile cyber security threats in the past 18 months. For instance, in June of 2021, JBS USA, the American division of the international beef producer, contended with a ransomware attack that led to an extortion payout of $11 million.

In April of 2022, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned U.S. food and agriculture sectors about how hackers may be more likely to target agricultural co-operatives during critical planting and harvest seasons than otherwise. The announcement noted that during the fall of 2021 and the winter of 2022, hackers launched attacks against six different grain cooperatives.

See related CyberTalk coverage here

Industrial cyber security solutions (ICS) are key in safeguarding agricultural groups and farmers from cyber threats. Organizations operating in this sector need to take as many precautions as possible in protecting their systems and processes.

For ICS insights, click here. Lastly, discover new trends, expert interviews, and so much more when you subscribe to the CyberTalk.org newsletter.