A new market disruption is coming to grocery store shelves. In the coming weeks, just as flu season gets underway, shoppers could be peering into depleted spaces where their Clorox cleaning supplies once stood.
This time, the culprit is not the pandemic, but a cyberattack.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, the Clorox Company said it had identified unauthorized activity on some of its information technology systems and it was forced to process orders manually. The slower rate of operations was affecting the availability of its products, it said.
“The cybersecurity attack damaged portions of the company’s IT infrastructure, which caused wide-scale disruption of Clorox’s operations,” it said. The company said it discovered the breach on Aug. 11, and disclosed it in an S.E.C. filing three days later.
Clorox, a publicly traded company, said it expected to return to automated processing of orders next week. It has resumed production “at the vast majority of its manufacturing sites and expects the ramp up to full production to occur over time.”
But it did not provide an estimate for how long it would take to return to normal. The cyberattack, it said, “has caused, and is expected to continue to cause, disruption to parts of the company’s business operations.”
Clorox is not alone in reporting cyberattacks recently. Last week, the casino and hotel chain MGM Resorts International said that a “cybersecurity issue” was affecting some of its online systems, causing disruptions for customers, particularly in Las Vegas.
Such attacks have contributed to upheavals in the consumer goods market that were exacerbated by the pandemic, which triggered panic-buying of toilet paper, cleaning products and household staples. Consumers have navigated recalls, supply-chain woes and labor issues that deepened shortages of baby formula and caused scarcities of items ranging from lumber to computer chips. The avian flu was a factor in high egg prices early this year.
Clorox’s cybersecurity woes are expected to affect access to some of the company’s most popular products, including its wipes and cleaning materials such as Pine-Sol, just as consumer concerns over flu season kick in. Seasonal influenza viruses are detected all year in the United States, but they typically circulate more widely during the fall and winter.
“We have resumed production, getting certain shipments out the door, and are remaining in constant contact with customers about their immediate needs,” Clorox said in a written response to questions on Tuesday. But the company added that it could not quantify the amounts because of delays and product outages.