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food & Drink

Wine for ransom

Winemakers and restaurants play all sorts of dirty tricks on each other

ANDREW J. LINN

Friday, 22 November 2019, 14:45

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Italian winemakers are particularly malicious when it comes to attacking the competition, and mafia-style methods are common. We heard last week of two cooperatives that had been broken into at night, the intruders opening the taps of all the tanks and barrels to release 40,000 hectolitres of wine. Result: two million euros' worth of losses.

WINE OF THE WEEK

  • La Fuente de Nekeas

  • It is not very obvious how they have done it, but this small family bodega, Nekeas, has succeeded in getting its Navarra wines into the top slot almost everywhere. This blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon is particularly successful, although the bodega's Chardonnay is superb. Around ¤7.30.

The dirtiest trick a restaurant can play on a competitor is to steal the reservations book. This makes it impossible to know whether diners without bookings can be admitted, so tables are left empty. In this day and age such dirty tricks are not necessary. There are computer hackers, who, for a price, will hack into the operating system of a competitor.

Ransomware is the best option. Last week a message appeared on all Everis's computer screens, 'Hello Everis, your network was hacked and encrypted. No decryption software is available on the Web. Email us at xxxx, and keep our contact safe. Disclosure can mean impossibility of decryption...'

Everis, Spain's largest IT consultants, had to close down everything. The price asked by the hacker for the decryption key was ¤750,000. The same day other companies were attacked, among them La Cadena Ser, KPMG and Accenture. As in nearly all such cases the victims do not publicise the attacks, following the instructions of the hackers, but it is an open secret that at least one of the country's biggest wine producers also had to close down their entire network in every country where they operate. No orders could be accepted as no stock figures were available, and no customers could be advised about orders pending. Bottling lines were halted. It is not known whether the victims paid the ransom, but normally the victim has just two options: pay the hackers or pay experts to resolve the problem. Neither option is guaranteed to work. Many people pay the hacker and receive nothing in return. One of Europe's largest drinks distributors was told if it did not pay three million euros its files would never be recovered. The shareholding family took a decision not to give in to such demands and closed the business forever.

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