Australia/New Zealand: Lion shuts down brewery following cyber-attack

Lion, one of the largest brewing groups in Australia and New Zealand and a subsidiary of Kirin Holdings from Japan,has become victim of a ransomware attack on Monday which interrupted manufacturing and customer orders. The brewery informed it had to shut down manufacturing and to stop delivery of its products, which was not resolved until this Friday.

On Wednesday, the company elaborated on the causes and consequences. “This attack has impacted crucial aspects of the brewing process. We operate multiple large-scale breweries, which are heavily reliant on IT infrastructure.“ As a consequence, Lion said that “we immediately shut down all our systems as a precaution, and we have continued to work with cyber experts to determine how much longer our systems will be impacted. “ However, Lion confirmed that “there is no evidence to date of any data breaches, but we are still investigating every aspect of this major incident. To support our customers and suppliers, we have already introduced a number of manual systems to allow us to take orders and then ship products around our networks.”

This attack could not have come at a worse time for Lion. Particularly pubs and clubs are negatively affected which are in the very early stages of recovery following the COVID-19 closures and which are currently rebuilding, restocking and reengaging their staff. In New Zealand with no new cases of COVID-19 for almost three weeks, Speight's Brewery in Dunedin has been shut down and there may be some temporary shortages of stock.

“Throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, we were able to continue to brew beer safely. We had stock at hand and were gearing up to increase brewing. This attack has delayed those plans, and because of the situation we have limited visibility of our products,” Lion said. “We’re working to bring our breweries back online as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will be managing our stock levels very closely and may see some temporary shortages.”

On Friday, the system was still not up and running.  “We had been hoping to have full access restored by now, but unfortunately this process is taking longer than we hoped,” Lion said. “Our IT teams and expert cyber advisors are working around the clock, investigating the issue and assessing how long the impacts will continue.”

Lion also stated on Friday that the “system outage has been caused by ransomware.” Ransomware is a type of malware that threatens to publish the victim's data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. More advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion, in which it encrypts the victim's files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them. Usually digital currencies such as Bitcoin is used for the ransoms, making tracing and prosecuting the perpetrators difficult.

Lately, there have been several high-profile ransomware attacks, including Japanese car manufacturer Honda on June 9, Italian multinational energy company Enel Group on June 7 and Australian logistics giant Toll Group on May 5.

Update 15 June 2020:
Lion informed on its webpage that “our IT teams and expert cyber advisors have continued working throughout the weekend to investigate this incident, working to bring systems back online safely. We have made good progress, however there is still some way to go before we can resume our normal manufacturing operations and customer service.

We continue to have limited visibility of our products in our systems. We’re working to bring our breweries back online as soon as possible, hoping to get a number of our breweries back up and running very soon.

We apologize to our consumers and customers, especially those who are only just getting their own venues back up and running following COVID-19 closures. We thank them for their patience as we do everything we can to get back to normal supply levels.

Lion Australia 

The latest impacts include a number of temporary shortages or out-of-stocks across both packaged (bottle/can) and keg brands. 

While our systems are offline, we have worked very hard to be able to supply a limited number of key products to our customers.  We will continue to accept and fulfil orders as best we can, using interim manual processes where we need to.

Lion New Zealand 

Whilst our systems are impacted, we are working hard to be able to supply key products to our customers. We have sufficient supply of the majority of our pack beer brands but we are experiencing temporary shortages of some of our brands of keg beer. Our Customer Call Centre and ordering systems are now operational. Speight’s Brewery has begun to commence production again today.”

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