TWO Wiltshire companies that prepare and provide ready-cooked meals to thousands of people have been hit by an international criminal cyber-attack over the weekend.

Wiltshire Farm Foods and its parent company, Apetito, today said its IT and computer systems have been affected by the attack which is causing problems with deliveries in the short term.

Apetito said it has been subjected to a highly sophisticated criminal cyber-attack which has breached its extensive IT security systems.

It said: “Such attacks are increasingly common in both business and the public sector. The purpose of the attack is illegal activity designed to extort money from the company.”

The Trowbridge-based company apologised to customers and assured them that no credit card details have been stolen as they are not kept on its computer system.

In a statement, the company’s CEO Paul Freeston said: “Our Crisis Management and IT teams (assisted by specialist external partners) are working all hours to bring critical systems back into operation as soon as possible. However, we expect substantial disruption in the coming days while we address these issues.

“We appreciate that this situation will cause very substantial inconvenience for our customers and we will do everything we can to resolve matters as soon as possible.”

Mr Freeston said that WFF and apetito will be unable to make many deliveries in the next few days.

The companies are also unable to contact customers personally as they do not have access to their telephone numbers.

He said they were “doing everything we can” to recover from the situation and advised customers who are expecting a delivery this week to contact their local depot.

The companies prepares and provides ready meals for thousands of customers throughout the UK, who can order online or choose from a brochure.

They also provide a hot Meals on Wheels service delivered direct to people’s homes by a fleet of van drivers.

Apetito also provides ready meals to care homes, hospitals, local authorities, schools and children’s nurseries throughout the country.

The company added: “We expect local MOW deliveries made by apetito to continue using our emergency procedures.

“This means that most MOW customers should receive a meal – although it may not be the meal they chose.”

apetito services provides MOW services in Hampshire, West Sussex, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, and the London boroughs of Richmond and Hillingdon.