KP Snacks cyber attack could lead to a shortage of nuts, crisps and popular snacks

By Alex Nelson
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 12:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 12:11 pm
(Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
(Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Britain could be facing a new shortage of snacks, with the makers of nuts, crisps and other popular bar snacks hit by a ransomware attack.

KP Snacks, who manufacture Hula Hoops, McCoy’s and Tyrrells crisps, Butterkist popcorn, Skips, Nik Naks, and KP Nuts, has become the target of a cyber attack,

Here is everything you need to know about it.

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What do the hackers want?

Ransomware is a form of cyber attack which locks files and data on a user’s computer and demands payment in order for them to be released back to the owner.

It has been used in a number of high-profile cyber attacks in recent years, including the 2017 attack on the NHS.

Hackers are demanding the company - founded over 150 years ago and based in Slough - make a payment to decrypt stolen files that contain information that would allow them to continue operations.

If they do not comply, the cyber attackers warn they will release sensitive company information.

Files seen by cyber security site Bleeping Computer showed KP Snacks listed on hacker group Conti’s confidential ‘data leak page’.

The site alleged that examples of KP Snacks related “credit card statements, birth certificates, spreadsheets with employee addresses and phone numbers, confidential agreements, and other sensitive documents” were shown on the data leak page.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has warned that even if firms pay up “there is no guarantee that you will get access to your computer, or your files”.

How long could the shortage last?

KP Snacks has said it will limit the size of orders to retailers in an effort to manage “what stock we do have”, as it cannot “safely process orders or dispatch goods” under current circumstances.

“On Friday 28 January we became aware that we were unfortunately victims of a ransomware incident,” said KP Snacks in a statement.

“As soon as we became aware of the incident, we enacted our cybersecurity response plan and engaged a leading forensic information technology firm and legal counsel to assist us in our investigation.”

The manufacturer has warned supply issues could last until “the end of March at the earliest” while its IT and communications systems remain “crippled”.

A letter from KP Snacks sent to store owners on 2 February said it is “unknown” when the issue will be resolved.

Who owns KP Snacks?

KP Snacks is owned by German snack food company Intersnack.

Intersnack is based in Düsseldorf and annually produces around 500,000 tonnes of snacks including potato chips, nuts, baked products, and “speciality snacks”.

The company has in excess of 8,000 employees, and brands under its umbrella include Pom-Bear and Penn State pretzels.

It also owns the Tayto Crisps company in the Republic of Ireland.

Has this happened before?

In December 2021, retailer Spar wholesaler was hit by severe IT issues after a cyber-attack affected more than 600 independent and centrally owned Spar stores across the north of England, forcing many to close temporarily.

And in October 2021, crisps were affected by widespread shortages around the country after Walkers said production on some of its “more niche” varieties had been slowed.

A technical glitch discovered as the company was upgrading its computer systems was to blame for the snack scarcity.

“A recent IT system upgrade has disrupted the supply of some of our products. Our sites are still making crisps and snacks but at a reduced scale,” a Walkers spokesperson told The Guardian.

Fans of the firm’s most popular products - including cheese and onion, ready salted and salt and vinegar crisps, as well as Quavers and Wotsits - had less trouble finding their desired snacks on shelves.

But Walkers said production on its “more niche” varieties had been slowed.

Though they did not confirm which lines were affected, Walkers also produces popular items such as its Oven Baked and ridged ‘Max’ ranges, as well as Monster Munch.”

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, NationalWorld