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Two Ways To Protect Your Ohio Food Business From Cyber Crime




It’s time you face it.

Cyber crime is a growing threat to your Ohio food company.

And unfortunately, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

But what’s concerning is, many Ohio food companies are still operating under a false sense of cyber security.

The National Cybersecurity Institute indicated that the Department of Homeland Security has identified the food and agriculture industry as one of the top 16 national critical infrastructures – which puts your food company at higher risk for a cyber attack.

And the costs to recover from a cyber attack can be astronomical.

Gone are the days where your sole focus was on managing your food companies’ operational and financial risks.

Today, you need to think about the costs of cyber security as well as the costs associated with not having enough of it.

If your security tools are inadequate, or threats go unnoticed, there’s an increased risk of incidents that can cost thousands to millions of dollars in repairs, lost business and reputation.

So, if you haven’t tackled the growing threat of cyber crime for your Ohio food business- there’s no better time than today to develop a strategy to reduce the risk and protect your bottom line.

The first step is to understand the the cyber threats and risks your food business faces.

  • Hackers, attackers and intruders are people who seek to exploit weaknesses in your data control systems for personal gain. Results from this cyber risk can range from minimal mischief (creating a virus with no negative impact) to malicious activity (stealing or altering information).
  • Malicious code is used to describe any code in part of a software system or script that’s intended to cause undesired effects, security breaches or damage to a system.

So, while you may not be storing credit card information or believe to have any “sensitive data” – many food companies are adopting advanced manufacturing technologies, which exposes you to significant cyber risk.

Ohio food companies like yours have reached a point where a cyber hack can reroute your supply chain and manipulate ingredients, just to name a few.

All it takes is one malicious hack that goes unnoticed, which can result in a major food recall.

Here’s two easy ways to reduce your risk of cyber crime and protect your bottom line:

Create a cyber risk management plan to help reduce your risk of cyber crime. Your cyber risk management plan should address the scope, roles and responsibilities, compliance criteria and methodology for performing cyber risk assessments. It should also include a characterization of all your systems used at your food company based on its function, the information that’s stored and processed and the importance it is to your company. Review your cyber risk management plan annually and update it whenever there are significant changes to your information systems.

Secure a Cyber Liability Insurance Policy. Your general liability policy does not protect against most cyber exposures. Standard commercial policies insure against injury or physical loss, and will not protect you from electronic damages and the associated costs that incur.

A typical cyber liability policy includes coverage for:

Data breaches: In the event of a breach, notification of the affected parties is now required by law. This will add to costs that will also include security fixes, identity theft protection for the affected and protection from possible legal action. While companies operating online are at a heightened risk, even companies that don’t transmit personal data over the internet, but still store it in electronic form, could be susceptible to breaches through data lost to unauthorized employee access or hardware theft.

Intellectual property rights: Your company’s online presence, whether it’s through a corporate website, blogs or social media, opens you up to some of the same exposures faced by publishers. This can include libel, copyright or trademark infringement and defamation, among other things.

Damages to a third-party system: If an email sent from your server has a virus that crashes the system of a customer, you could be held liable for the damages.

System failure: A natural disaster, malicious activity or fire could cause physical damages that result in data or code loss. While the physical damages to your system hardware could be covered under your existing business liability policy, data or code loss due to the incident would not be covered under your existing policy, leaving a gap in your insurance coverage.

Cyber extortion: Hackers can hijack websites, networks and stored data, denying access to you or your customers. They often demand money to restore your systems to working order. This can cause a temporary loss of revenue plus generate costs associated with paying the hacker’s demands or rebuilding if damage is done.

Business interruption: If your primary business operations require the use of computer systems, a disaster that cripples your ability to transmit data could cause you, or a third party that depends on your services, to lose potential revenue. From a server failure to a data breach, such an incident can affect your day-to-day operations. Time and resources that normally would have gone elsewhere will need to be directed towards the problem, which could result in further losses. This is especially important as denial of service attacks by hackers have been on the rise. Such attacks block access to certain websites by either rerouting traffic to a different site or overloading an organization’s server.

Cyber liability insurance is specifically designed to address the risks that come with using modern technology; risks that other types of business liability coverage simply do not cover. The level of coverage depends on your individual operations and varies depending on your range of exposure.

So, here’s the good news.

I can help you with both.

As a Food and Agribusiness Protection Specialist, I work with farm and food companies from across Ohio, designing quality risk management and insurance programs that reduces their risk exposures and protects their bottom line.

As the threat of cyber crime continues to rise, the protection against this risk exposure is critical.

Next step.

Let’s meet.

I’m Pat O’Neill, and I work at The O’Neill Group in Northeast Ohio, which is a risk management and insurance firm that specializes in food and agribusiness.

Call me at (330) 334-1561 or email me at to get started on your Cyber Risk Management Program.

Click here to visit our Product Recall Insurance page, which includes more information and resources on Food Safety, Compliance, and Risk Management.


This article was adapted from Zywave. This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.