The Australian beverages giant behind milk brands Dairy Farmers and Pura and XXXX Gold beer has been hit by a major cyber attack that has disrupted manufacturing and knocked out its internal IT systems.
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China Mengniu Dairy Company is poised to acquire Lion's dairy and drinks business.CREDIT:PAUL HARRIS

Staff at Lion, which was previously known as Lion Nathan, lost remote access on Tuesday morning as a result of the attack, which has also impacted the processing of customer orders.

Lion employs approximately 7000 people across Australia and its dairy and drinks business, which employs 2300 workers, is currently the subject of a $600 million takeover bid by Chinese dairy giant Mengniu, part-owned by Chinese state-owned food processor COFCO.

The Foreign Investment Review Board is assessing the bid after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission gave the offer the green light in February. Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will have the final say over whether the sale goes ahead.

Contacted byThe Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Tuesday, Lion confirmed it had been hit by a cyber attack that had forced it to shut down its IT systems. “Lion has experienced a cyber incident and has taken the precaution of shutting down our IT systems, causing some disruption to our suppliers and customers,” the company said via a public relations firm.

“We are working with expert advisors to address the issue. We have alerted the authorities and are working hard to minimise disruption to customers and suppliers. We will provide further updates when we can, and we thank our customers and suppliers for their patience.”

The company said its beer business had ceased manufacturing as a result of the attack, but said it had enough stocks already brewed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep supplying pubs and restaurants as they re-open. Its dairy and juice business has also been impacted, and is now producing perishables at a limited capacity.

Despite the impact, it was able to make some deliveries on Tuesday.

The attack on Lion’s IT systems follows steelmaker BlueScope suffering from its own cyber attack in May, which reportedly halted production.

Logistics giant Toll Group also recently suffered multiple cyber attacks which closed numerous internal and customer-facing systems after being infected by so-called ransomware, which locks up IT systems until a sum of money is paid to hackers who hold the IT system to ransom.

Meanwhile, customer information from NSW government department Service NSW was accessed when the email accounts of 47 staff members were hacked in April.

The giant Holstein cow with spots arranged as a map of the world is designed to celebrate the farmer-owned cooperative’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

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