Incorporating safety programs into an organization’s culture is paramount in the food industry, where the integrity of the food supply chain is critical. Different safety program cultures, such as fire safety, food safety and cybersecurity must work together and be ingrained into an organization’s daily operations.

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In today’s world, integrating cybersecurity programs into an organization’s safety culture is equally important as fire and food safety programs. Fire safety culture is an excellent example of cultural training in practice. After all, most of us recall the familiar phrase “stop, drop and roll.” While the exact words may differ across countries and languages, it is a simple and memorable method for extinguishing a fire on oneself.

Fire safety also isn’t just about preventing fires, but aims to minimize damage to property and life through practicing fire drills, installing smoke detectors and using fire-resistant materials.

Proactive cybersecurity involves planning to prevent cyber-attacks and their impact on the food supply chain’s safety and security.

Similarly, proactive food safety practices involve measures to prevent contamination, such as proper sanitation, food storage and regular equipment maintenance. Likewise, the growing dependence on technology in the food industry has made it indispensable to any food plant’s safety program. Computers are now integral to the food industry. They control everything from ingredient mixing to cold storage, drone use, supply chain logistics and more and unfortunately, these systems are susceptible to cyber–attacks. In 2021, a ransomware cyber-attack on a milk distribution company in Wisconsin, USA, caused a large milk processor to shut down a plant and dispose off their expensive product.

Cybersecurity incidents can significantly affect an organization’s reputation and finances and even result in loss of life. Proactive cybersecurity involves planning to prevent cyber-attacks and their impact on the food supply chain’s safety and security. It also incorporates cybersecurity measures and education into the food safety and security strategy. Effective collaboration between the food safety, IT and security teams is crucial for achieving a unified culture. Cross-organizational collaboration ensures that suitable cybersecurity measures are integrated into the overarching strategy, which prevents cyber-attacks from jeopardizing the integrity of the food supply chain.

As you integrate cybersecurity programs into your organization’s culture, consider the following simple checklist of action items
• Cybersecurity:

Identify potential threats and develop a plan to counteract them. Regular risk assessments are vital for identifying potential cybersecurity issues. Implement measures to mitigate problems, invest in appropriate cybersecurity controls and restrict computer system access. Consistent sector-specific cybersecurity training for employees will also help embed these considerations into the company’s culture.

• Communication and collaboration between different teams:

Effective cooperation between the food safety, IT and security teams is essential for achieving an integrated culture. Regular meetings and touchpoints increase awareness of potential threats and ensure that teams work together to prevent them. Working together is the best resilience strategy for people and processes.

• Business Continuity Plans (BCPs):

Invest in preventive measures and establish a plan to respond quickly and efficiently during a cybersecurity-related crisis. Food safety practices involve implementing measures to prevent contamination and enable a swift response to potential outbreaks – cybersecurity should follow suit. Investing in appropriate preventive measures and cyber-physical security controls is crucial. Creating a cybersecurity-focused BCP involves three fundamental steps to ensure organizations can effectively respond to crises.

• First, conduct a risk assessment and analysis to identify critical assets, assess potential threats and vulnerabilities and evaluate their potential impact on the organization.

• Second, develop and implement preventive and mitigation strategies, including cybersecurity controls, procedures for containment and recovery and incident response and communication plans.

• Finally, test, review and update the BCP regularly while training employees on their roles and responsibilities during a cybersecurity incident. By following these steps, organizations can establish an effective BCP to minimize disruptions and mitigate damage during cybersecurity crises.

Cultural integration is essential for ensuring the safety and security of the food supply chain. Accomplishing an integrated food resiliency culture necessitates investing in preventive measures, an efficient plan for rapid and effective response, education and collaboration between different teams.

Like the fire safety mantra of “stop, drop and roll,” during a cyberattack, one should “stop, report and mitigate.” Create a memorable method for dealing with a cyber-incident and make it common knowledge.

Stop:

Immediately cease any activity that may exacerbate the situation or compromise the system’s security. In cybersecurity, “stop” means recognizing when a potential cyber threat or attack is occurring and taking immediate action to prevent further damage. This may include disconnecting the affected device from the network, stopping any ongoing processes or refraining from clicking on suspicious links.

Report:

Promptly notify the appropriate parties, such as the IT or security teams of the suspected threat or cyber-attack to initiate a rapid response. “Report” emphasizes the importance of communication when a cybersecurity incident occurs. Employees should be encouraged to report suspicious activity or potential cyber threats to their IT or security teams without fear of repercussions. Timely reporting can minimize damage and speed up the recovery process.

Mitigate:

Implement measures to contain the impact of the threat or attack and initiate recovery procedures to restore normal operations as soon as possible. “Mitigate” refers to taking action to minimize the damage caused by a cyber threat or attack and to prevent its spread. This may involve isolating affected systems, removing malware, patching vulnerabilities or initiating a business continuity plan to ensure minimal disruption to the organization’s operations.

Why Cybersecurity should be part of your Safety Culture

In our increasingly digitized world, where technological advancements have transformed industries and brought convenience to our fingertips, the concept of safety has expanded beyond physical concerns to include the realm of cybersecurity. Just as businesses prioritize workplace safety, cybersecurity should be integrated into the organizational DNA as a core component of the safety culture. This article explores the reasons why cybersecurity is essential for modern businesses and why it should be seamlessly woven into the fabric of safety practices.

The Expanding Horizon of Safety

Safety has traditionally revolved around physical well-being, encompassing measures to prevent accidents, injuries and health hazards. However, the rapid integration of technology into business processes has blurred the lines between the physical and digital realms. As businesses increasingly rely on digital platforms, data storage and online interactions, the safety landscape has expanded to include safeguarding sensitive information, systems and networks from cyber threats.

The Case for Cybersecurity as Part of Safety Culture

1. Data Protection: In today’s data-driven economy, organizations store vast amounts of sensitive information, including customer data, financial records, and intellectual property. Just as physical documents are protected, digital data must be safeguarded against breaches, leaks, and theft.

2. Operational Resilience: Cyberattacks can disrupt business operations leading to downtime, financial losses and damage to reputation. By fostering a cybersecurity-conscious culture, businesses can enhance their resilience against cyber threats and recover more swiftly from potential attacks.

3. Consumer Trust: Consumers entrust businesses with their personal information, expecting it to be handled responsibly. A strong cybersecurity culture not only protects this trust but also demonstrates a commitment to ethical practices.

4. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Many industries are subject to stringent data protection regulations. Integrating cybersecurity into the safety culture ensures that businesses remain compliant, avoiding potential legal consequences.

5. Employee Education: A cybersecurity-focused safety culture includes educating employees about phishing, malware, and other cyber threats. This empowers employees to identify and respond to potential risks, reducing the likelihood of successful attacks.

Strategies for Integrating Cybersecurity into Safety Culture:

1. Leadership Commitment: When leadership prioritizes and champions cybersecurity, employees are more likely to embrace it as an integral part of the safety culture.

2. Training and Awareness: Regular training sessions and awareness programs can educate employees about cyber threats and best practices for protecting digital assets.

3. Clear Policies and Procedures: Clearly defined cybersecurity policies and procedures help employees understand their responsibilities and the expected behaviours in digital environments.

4. Collaborative Efforts: Encourage collaboration between IT teams and other departments to ensure that cybersecurity considerations are embedded in all aspects of the business.

5. Incident Response Planning: Develop comprehensive incident response plans that outline steps to be taken in case of a cyber incident, ensuring a swift and coordinated response.

In Conclusion:

Incorporating cybersecurity into the safety culture is no longer optional; it’s a necessity for businesses operating in the digital age. By weaving cybersecurity considerations into the fabric of daily operations, organizations can protect their assets, maintain consumer trust and safeguard their reputation. Just as physical safety practices have become ingrained in business operations, cybersecurity practices should be an integral part of the safety culture, ensuring a resilient and secure future for businesses in the face of evolving cyber threats.

About the Author:
Ashutosh Jaiswal
Food Safety Professional,
Email ID: ashuthewall@gmail.com.
Website: https://www.foodsafetywithashutosh.com

Author

An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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