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Inside Dole’s ransomware attack


Ransomware. One of the most tech-savvy forms of extortion. It’s malicious software that blocks access to a computer system until money is paid to the extorters.

richard smoley produce blueprints

The produce giant Dole plc BB #:124463 fell victim to a ransomware attack earlier this month, reports CNN, leading to a shortage of some of its salad kits in certain markets.

“Dole plc . . . announced today that the company recently experienced a cybersecurity incident that has been identified as ransomware,” says a company press release. “Upon learning of this incident, Dole moved quickly to contain the threat and engaged leading third-party cybersecurity experts, who have been working in partnership with Dole’s internal teams to remediate the issue and secure systems.

“The company has notified law enforcement about the incident and are cooperating with their investigation.

“While continuing to investigate the scope of the incident, the impact to Dole operations has been limited.”

But a Dole spokesman did not say whether a ransom had been paid, according to CNN.

On February 17, Stewart’s, a grocery store in Olney, TX, posted a notice from Dole on its Facebook page: saying that “Dole have subsequently shut down our systems throughout North America.”

Dole’s cybersecurity is handled by the computer security firm Fortinet.

This is what Fortinet says it has done for Dole (in a statement that preceded the attack):

“For Dole plc, any downtime will put a spoil on revenue for the food industry leader. Ensuring visibility into the company’s security infrastructure and developing quick responses are crucial components for keeping global operations running smoothly. After Dole transitioned to a cloud-based email provider, it became apparent that the native security controls from the provider were not sufficient compared to Dole’s risk posture. Dole also suffered from a lack of visibility into web logs, application logs, and database logs. Dole implemented FortiMail Cloud for email security, Fortinet’s email security as-a-service. Later, it implemented FortiSIEM (Security Information and Event Management). The additional security layers provide more visibility and help address global security threats.”

Hackers apparently exploited a bug in the Fortinet system.

Dole plc, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, is one of the world’s largest producers of fruits and vegetables, with third-quarter income in 2022 reported at $2.3 billion.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.