The increased threat and complexity of cyberattacks, combined with industry digitalisation and tightening legislation to protect consumers’ rights, are driving cybersecurity spending in the foodservice sector. According to GlobalData, global cybersecurity revenues in foodservice will grow from $1.2bn in 2020 to $2.1 billion in 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.8%.

Digitalisation is exposing foodservice companies and customers to cyberattacks

Owning an increased array of managed assets, including infrastructure, applications, Cloud services, data and endpoints such as point of sale (POS) devices, serves to increase the number of points through which hackers could enter or extract data, the ease at which they can navigate networks, and the wealth of data available.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices must connect to the internet to function. Unless these devices are supported by cybersecurity apparatus such as firewalls and SIEM systems, hackers can infect them with malware, take outright control of them (depending on the device in question), or use them to gain access to the wider network.

In addition, operational technology (OT) assets are often network-connected. Connected POS systems are at particular risk for consumer-facing companies, as demonstrated by the POS data breach between July 2019 and August 2020 at Dickey’s Barbeque Pit, affecting over three million consumers. In this instance, cyberattackers took advantage of the weaknesses in magnetic stripe card swiping. Technology enhancements for POS systems that block new entry points for cyberattacks can reduce the likelihood of a data breach.

Digital lifestyles are further accelerating the need for increased cybersecurity

Consumers are becoming increasingly dependent on digital tools to manage their lifestyles. The Covid-19 pandemic and the popularity of smartphones and social media platforms have accentuated this reliance, reshaping the needs and attitudes of consumers. Foodservice companies must connect with consumers across platforms, manage corporate accounts and marketing campaigns, and process digital payments. As the volume and type of data stored by foodservice companies operating online grow, the risk to consumer data increases.

Regulations demand data privacy

Human rights violations come in many forms, including data breaches, as every individual has a right to privacy. As foodservice companies process and store a wealth of employee and consumer data, breaches of security can lead to the unauthorised access, use, destruction, loss, alteration, or disclosure of this personal data.

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To prevent and mitigate data breaches, foodservice companies must enact clear data privacy and security policies. Investment in cybersecurity should be a priority, covering all aspects of a company’s IT and OT. Appropriate post-breach response and risk and compliance policies should also be imposed to protect citizens’ data privacy rights, or the company may face non-compliance fines. Foodservice companies will also face tighter rules and regulations in the future. In March 2022, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a new law that would force public companies to disclose cyberattacks within four days, along with periodic reports about their cyber-risk management plans. Meanwhile, NIS2, a new EU draft law expected to come into force in 2024, sets out tighter cybersecurity obligations regarding risk management, reporting obligations, and information sharing.