June 10, 2023

Sobeys data breach is an industry wake-up call: expert | Globalnews.ca

The recent Sobeys data breach has exposed a larger problem in Canada’s agri-food sector, an expert said.

Sylvain Charlebois, a food researcher and professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said the industry has been particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks in recent weeks.

He said this latest case, which Sobeys has said has now been resolved, will be a bit of a wake-up call for the country’s agri-food sector because of the high-value, low-margin nature of the industry.

“The stakes are much higher at Sobeys because it’s a front-end business, they deal with customers, so if their database is breached and some of the security is compromised, you’ve got personal information that’s likely to be shared now,” said. Charlebois.

“You can’t miss, and the hackers know it.”

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Sobeys has only referred to the incident as “IT system issues” for the week and has yet to confirm that it was the result of a cyber attack.

Read more:

Empire Co. suffer from IT problems affecting the pharmacies of Sobeys and other grocery stores

However, on Thursday, two of the province’s privacy watchdogs said they had received the data breach notifications from Sobeys.

The grocer has notified both the Quebec Freedom of Information Commission and the Alberta Privacy Commission about the “confidentiality incident.”

According to the Quebec Access to Information Commission, breaches of confidentiality occur when personal information is accessed, used or lost without authorization, or any other breach of the protection of that information.

This isn’t the only confidentiality incident that has befallen the Canadian agri-food company recently.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. was hit by a cyber security attack over the weekend, which affected operations from the beginning of the week.

An even bigger cybersecurity attack was launched against meat supplier JBS and Alberta-based JBS Canada in 2021, which resulted in the company paying an $11 million ransom in Bitcoin.

Read more:

Meat company JBS Foods confirms it has paid an $11 million ransom for a cyber attack

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In October, a national supply chain task force released a final report recommending Canada’s cybersecurity strategy to address risks to critical commodity transportation supply chains.

Problems at Empire pharmacies, including Sobeys, Safeway and Lawtons Drugs, were first reported over the weekend, and some Halifax locations Tuesday displayed signs warning customers of the ongoing technical issue.

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Empire is keeping quiet about the IT problems that affected other Sobeys stores

Sobeys spokeswoman Sarah Dawson said Sobeys locations across the country are open and serving customers and that pharmacy locations are back in full operation while restocking shelves.

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Empire is keeping quiet as IT issues continue to affect other Sobeys stores

At the federal level, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner of Canada said it is in contact with the company to learn more and determine the next steps.

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Customers may find shelves in the sub-warehouse in the coming weeks as a result of the technical breach, Charlebois said.

When asked if the issues were resolved, Dawson said “although our network is working very well, although challenges are not without ongoing.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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