Federated Co-ops says it's making progress as cyberattack woes enter 2nd week

Lettuce was difficult to come by at one Co-op in Saskatoon this week. Another location in the city had plenty of lettuce, but was low on bread. (Dayne Patterson/CBC - image credit)
Lettuce was difficult to come by at one Co-op in Saskatoon this week. Another location in the city had plenty of lettuce, but was low on bread. (Dayne Patterson/CBC - image credit)

As the fallout from a cybersecurity attack on Co-op enters its second week, the company in charge of the stores is asking customers to be patient.

"We are making significant progress in restoring some operations," Federated Co-operatives Ltd. said in a Facebook post Wednesday. "We are working to recover from the incident, but ask for your patience as we continue to build our way back to regular operations."

Shelves in some Saskatchewan Co-op stores were adorned over the past week with laminated messages apologizing for a lack of some products in the wake of a cyberattack.

While supply problems varied by store, stocks of food items like bread, fresh produce, baking supplies and dairy products were slim or non-existent.

Saskatoon-based FCL announced June 28 that it was grappling with a cybersecurity incident that was affecting internal systems, local retail Co-ops and cardlock fuel locations. It led the company to shut down some of its systems and investigate.

Co-op has a number of stores and gas stations in Canada, mainly in the western provinces.

Cardlock fuelling stations, popular with truckers and farmers, provide members with 24-hour self-serve access to fuel pumps. They were hit hard in the first few days.

On Wednesday, FCL said it's getting more cardlocks back in service every day, and getting the rest back online is a priority.

It also says it is prioritizing key grocery items and consumer goods for delivery to local Co-ops. Retail gas stations were largely unaffected by the outages, it says.

The company says there are currently some two million Co-op members across Western Canada.

FCL says there is no evidence that consumer data has been compromised, but if that changes, it will take "appropriate action."

The nature of the cyberattack on FCL is unclear, but cybersecurity expert Francis Syms said these types of incidents are typically ransomware attacks.

Syms is an associate dean in the faculty of applied sciences and technology at Humber College in Ontario. He said the lack of some food items is probably because a lot of companies, especially small co-operatives, keep their inventory and billing data on software that could have been the target.

"We don't know if that's what was attacked here in this situation, but that's often what happens," he said.

Syms said that while it's still unclear what kind of attack happened, people can proactively change passwords for the website and other similar passwords, ensure their related accounts are protected with two-factor authentication and be wary of scam calls, but should not panic.

As of Wednesday morning, FCL's main website and its local sites were not operational.