The food and drinks industry will prioritize cybersecurity over all other forms of tech investment in the next year, if a survey from Fortinet is anything to go by.
Cybersecurity researchers presented 13 possible “technological improvements” to companies, and found that three in 10 put digital safety at the top of their spending list for the next twelve months.
That placed cybersecurity ahead of “process safety” (21%), computer maintenance, and machine connectivity software (both 17%), suggesting that firms in some industries may at last be taking the issue of cybercrime more seriously.
That said, around one in fifteen respondents admitted they had no plans to invest in their digital security, indicating that there remains some work to be done to raise awareness of the issue.
While the outlook over the longer term saw cybersecurity lag behind other forms of tech investment within the food and beverage industry, the priority given to it over the next year shows that company bosses are apparently treating it as an issue commanding some urgency.
When asked what they intended to prioritize during the next five years, most firms put machine connectivity at the top of their list (44%), with business intelligence analytics another popular choice (32%), and data integrating software also ranking highly (34%).
However, as far as Fortinet – which commissioned the research with fellow tech firm Dragos – is concerned, cybersecurity comes out on top overall. It pointed out that when priority investment data for the short, medium and long term was aggregated, digital defense ranked first, with 93% of respondents saying they planned to invest in it within the next five years.
Seven in 10 businesses said they were more worried about potential harm to consumers from a cyberattack than hurt revenues – perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nature of their products.
Willing to change
“The general tone of the survey results showed the food and beverage industry is working to improve its digital connectivity,” said Fortinet, adding that despite recent high-profile attacks on the likes of Arizona Beverages and JBS nearly a third of industry respondents had reported no breaches in the past year.
Just over four in 10 firms who did said the breach had been caused by “naive employees” falling for a phishing scam, with just around a fifth saying a targeted attack involving an “intruder trolling for an IP address” had prompted them to take more thought of their cybersecurity.
Just 4% said their woes were due to the work of an “insider” or “disgruntled employee,” while 3% blamed a state-sponsored threat group for their losses.
While there may be an apparent willingness to improve cyber protection, the food and drinks industry still has some way to go: seven in 10 respondents had a “poor understanding of what needs to change.”
“While most organizations recognize the need for diligence when defending from cyberattack, many seem to lack knowledge of what systems and processes need to be protected,” says Chris Blauvelt, head of operational technology at Fortinet.
The Fortinet report stressed that the “ongoing challenge” facing the industry included being able to maintain core operations while upgrading defensive systems.
“Food and beverage processors realize that advanced automation and connectivity are inevitable progress in this business,” it added. “Increasing network security, through investments in the people, processes, and technologies that drive it, will be the key to unlocking operational benefits, better safety, and more efficiency.”
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