Molson Coors incident shines a light on industrial cyberattack vulnerabilities


Dive Brief:

  • Molson Coors Beverage Co. said it has made substantial progress in restoring its business to near normal levels since a cyber disruption reported earlier this month, according to a filing with federal regulators. But the company is still dealing with some delays and disruption in its brewery operations, production and shipments in the U.K., Canada and U.S. 

  • Combined with severe winter storms last month in Texas, the cybersecurity threat will push between 1.8 million and 2 million hectoliters of production and shipments from the first quarter to the rest of the fiscal year. The delay will distribute between $120 million and $140 million in EBITDA throughout the rest of the fiscal year.

  • The cybersecurity incident will result in incremental one-time costs for consultants, experts and data recovery during the first and second quarters, the company said. 

Dive Insight:

While Molson Coors has not announced a cause for what it calls a “cybersecurity incident,” the event comes amid a wave of malware attacks and ransomware activity that has impacted companies worldwide. The recently reported incidents range from healthcare providers to computer maker Acer, IoT provider Sierra Wireless and other major companies. 

Trend Micro released a study showing 61% of manufacturers had experienced a cyber incident, resulting in outages for 75% of those companies. The report showed 43% of the outages lasted more than four days. The online survey, conducted by independent researcher Vanson Bourne, was based on 500 IT and OT professionals in the U.S., Germany and Japan.  

Food and beverage companies are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Plant operations often run 24/7, which makes it very difficult for the IT equipment to be patched on a regular basis, according to Grant Geyer, chief product officer at Claroty. 

Molson Coors disclosed in a March 11 filing that a “cybersecurity incident” led to a disruption of its brewery operation, production and shipping operations, and it was working around the clock to get its systems back up and running.

The incident was confirmed in a statement by Adam Collins, chief communication officer at the beer company. Molson Coors also retained a forensic IT firm and legal counsel to help in its investigation.

“Over the past few weeks, we have faced significant and unforeseeable obstacles,” Molson Coors president and CEO Gavin Hattersley said in the March 26 update. “While these obstacles will have a negative impact on our first quarter shipments and financial results, we believe the fundamentals of our revitalization plan are strong and our future remains bright.”

The company reaffirmed its earnings guidance for the full year 2021 and said it continues to expect mid single-digit revenue growth. 

Beyond the forensic specialist announced earlier this month, Molson Coors said on Friday that it retained legal counsel to help with an investigation, and is cooperating with law enforcement agencies, who the company contacted after the incident. It is also working with its relevant insurance companies in response to the incident.