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The company says it has engaged third party experts to ensure swift remediation, but questions remain.

Food giant Dole announced this week that the company recently “experienced a cybersecurity incident that has been identified as ransomware”.

The fresh food producer was very terse in its official announcement, saying only that it had “moved quickly to contain the threat and engaged leading third-party cybersecurity experts, who have been working in partnership with Dole’s internal teams to remediate the issue and secure systems”. In addition, Dole said it has “notified law enforcement about the incident and are cooperating with their investigation”.

As far as the overall repercussions of the attack are concerned, Dole said “the impact to Dole operations has been limited”.

Also read: Holistic approach can improve cyber readiness

“Limited” shut down of operations?

Despite Dole’s assertions of only a minimal impact, CNN reported that the company had to shut down its North American operations. CNN claims to have seen a memo from Emanuel Lazopoulos, senior vice president at Dole’s Fresh Vegetables division, which said: “Dole Food Company is in the midst of a Cyber Attack and have subsequently shut down our systems throughout North America”.

CNN also reports that some grocery shoppers were led to complain on Facebook in recent days that store shelves were missing Dole-made salad kits. Lazopoulos’s memo was dated February 10, which indicates that Dole had delayed reporting the incident for some reason.

Why the delay?

The delay in reporting could have been due to the company’s dealings with their attackers. Ransomware is used by extortion gangs to infect a business’s systems to encrypt company files, rendering them unusable to their owner. The hackers then demand a ransom from the company in return for a decryption key. The whole process of communication and negotiation can take months, however. a process that can take months. Such attacks have been steadily on the rise in recent years.

Dole has four processing plants in the US and employs more than 3,000 people. The files and records seized by the malefactors could be substantial. For now, however, the company has apparently decided not to go bananas over the incident.

Also read: Diary of a ransomware attack