Why do I need to keep my software updated?

With all the challenges that food manufacturers face every day, you could be forgiven for placing cybersecurity fairly low down the list of concerns. With big names like Sony, Marriott and the NHS hitting the headlines as victims of cyber-attacks, it’s easy to think that your facility will escape the risk.

However, according to a report published by the University of Minnesota, this is exactly the reason why the food industry needs to prioritise building up its defences. As the report states, for a cybersecurity risk to exist, there needs to be a vulnerability in the system, such as out-of-date software, which can lead to an attack from a hacker or a virus infiltrating your systems. As cybersecurity can sometimes be a neglected topic within the food industry, it’s more important than ever for manufacturers to do everything they can to protect themselves, starting with ensuring their software is up-to-date.


Threat of hackers

Cybersecurity and safety

One of the main threats to a business’ cybersecurity is hackers. If a hacker finds his/her way into the system, they can cause all levels of mayhem. Hackers can target a business by planting a computer virus to attack the systems, or in some cases they can even hold files in return for money, something known as ransomware. 

OAL Connected has worked with customers who have experienced the devastation of a virus. Production can grind to a halt and the damage can even take down the entire business. Delays in the product being supplied to the customer, or products that are sent out that could potentially harm a consumer, could ultimately result in the total loss of business due to reputational damage. Furthermore, the loss of valuable data such as accounts information can send the costs from a few thousand, to hundreds of thousands of pounds.


Vulnerability

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While it all sounds very alarming, there is a surprisingly simple fix that can help to keep you protected – ensuring that all software on-site is updated to the latest version. OAL Connected discovered that one of the main reasons the hackers had been successful in customers’ cyber-attacks was because the sites were running on an old version of Windows, which had potentially left loopholes open to the hackers that had been fixed in previous  software updates. 

Norton, the security expert, explains that software providers frequently develop and improve their products to reduce the risk of hackers finding their way into your system. A software update will perform a variety of tasks, including removing outdated features, updating bug fixes and fixing any security holes that have been discovered. 

Without the latest software, through updates or upgrades, businesses become vulnerable to the threats of a cyberattack.


Compatibility with Connected

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Furthermore, out-of-date software could result in incompatibility with other computer systems around your facility. For example, third party software drivers, especially printer manufacturers’ software, are no longer supported in Windows XP. If a business runs on old software, your operators may have to resort to manual inputting of dates due to incompatibility with the printing system. This brings with it the threat of an emergency product withdrawal (EPW), as it is well known that human error is one of the primary causes of product recalls. By keeping your software up-to-date, you can ensure that your line runs smoothly and reduce the risk of errors disrupting your throughputs.  

Additionally, an out-of-date system may lead to a reduction in the amount and quality of customer support offered. If a business is not adequately protected, and then is infected by a computer virus, this can be passed over to other systems. Therefore, support will be limited until it is safe to access your system. 

OAL Connected has worked with many sites to assist in updating their systems. Our experts are on-hand to update the database to the latest version or upgrade equipment that can support the newest versions of Windows. This means it will be compatible with our advanced systems to automate your entire packaging line seamlessly, as well as increasing your cybersecurity protection.


What else can I do? 

Keeping your software up-to-date will give your business the best chance at defending itself against a cyberattack, but there are also other steps you can take to be proactive to reduce your risk. The University of Minnesota report advises following these three steps;

  1. Increase communication between operations technology and information technology staff. 

  2. Conduct risk assessments that include inventories of both industrial control and IT systems. 

  3. Involve staff with cyber-security expertise in procuring and deploying new industrial control systems.


Get up-to-date with OAL Connected

Are you running on old software? Why not get in touch with us to get up-to-date on your systems and give yourself the best chance of defence against a cyber-attack.

Alicia Jones