More organizations have started implementing technology into their operations to help increase efficiency and make daily tasks easier. However, sectors that rely on technological innovations open the door to cyberattacks.
Agriculture has seen an increase in online threats. Here’s why the sector has become a target, the attacks it faces and five ways it can stay safe from malicious actors.
Why Has the Agriculture Sector Become a Target?
Agriculture technology (ag tech) has made many daily operations easier and it aids with increasing output. It relies on different devices and software to help with efficiency, yield and profitability.
The technology can include computers, robotics, drones, software and vehicles. One of the reasons agriculture has become a target for cyberattacks is due to the vital part it plays in the economy. Farmers could be inclined to make desperate choices to get their businesses up and running again if they fall victim to ransomware attacks.
Farms are also easy targets. For years, the main goal of the agriculture sector was to increase performance and improve safety. However, it must now also focus on implementing cybersecurity measures to protect against online threats.
Many farms have not done that yet and are unaware of cybersecurity’s vital role. Unfortunately, this makes them easy targets for malicious actors.
Recent Cyberattacks in the Industry
In September 2021, the FBI released a report outlining the different cyberattacks plaguing the food and agriculture sector. A ransomware attack caused massive financial damage to a U.S. farm in January.
An unidentified cybercriminal accessed compromised administrative login information and used it to attack internal servers. The farm needed to temporarily shut down and lost $9 million.
This was not an isolated incident. There were six ransomware attacks against grain cooperatives in 2021 and two possible cyberattacks on a feeding mill company the following year.
Another farm cyberattack occurred in November 2020 when an agriculture business could not access its computer systems. The criminals sent a phishing email with a harmful zip file attachment.
The threat actors encrypted much of the farm’s data and wanted it to pay a $40 trillion ransom fee for the safe return of the information. After the criminals conducted their encryption technique, they stole terabytes full of information. Fortunately, the farm regained control of the situation and restored its systems to operational effect via backup copies.
Cyberattacks can cause massive problems if operations don’t take proper preventive measures.
5 Ways Farmers Can Protect Themselves From Cyberattacks
Ag tech and other techniques, such as permaculture and plastic-free packaging, are the future of the agriculture sector. However, farms should consider implementing security measures to efficiently protect their business from online threats. Farmers investing in cybersecurity best practices are prepared for potential online attacks. Here are five ways organizations can defend themselves.
1. Have a Dedicated Contingency Plan
One of the best things farms can do is prepare for the worst. They should have a plan with procedures in place if a cyberattack occurs.
Knowing what procedures to follow and actions to take can greatly reduce the damage from an attack. Taking action quickly is crucial for limiting the effect of a data breach.
2. Implement Network Segmentation and Conduct Regular Backups
Network segmentation is when the system is broken down into smaller and more manageable portions. Regularly backing up important information and keeping different copies in segmented and secure locations also increases safety. These two factors are essential for establishing a great recovery plan.
3. Protect Login Information
A great way farms can protect themselves from online threats is to educate employees on cybersecurity best practices, such as the different attacks the organization can come up against.
They should regularly change passwords for accounts and networks.
Officials should ensure everyone has their own login information when using farming software. They should also implement policies where administration credentials are required to install applications. Consider using multifactor authentication with strong codes and phrases.
4. Put Measures in Place Against Phishing Attacks
Employees should know how to identify phishing email attacks and what procedures to follow if they receive any. A best practice many agriculture businesses can use is to remove hyperlinks from received emails. This can significantly reduce the chance of someone in the organization falling victim to the scam.
Farms should not send personal and sensitive information through messaging apps. They should also be cautious when receiving messages from accounts they do not recognize. Here are a few warning indicators to look out for with phishing scams:
- The sender’s name does not match the email address.
- Grammatical errors are often a dead giveaway that the sender is not with a legitimate company.
- Messages asking for personal information are a reg flag. Most companies rarely ask for sensitive data over email.
- Emails that urge immediate action are likely phishing scams. They rely on emotion and create a fake sense of urgency.
- The message has generic greetings such as “Dear Sir” or “Dear Employee.”
5. Install Antivirus Software and Keep It Updated
Antivirus software should be installed on all devices. The firmware will eventually become outdated, so farmers should perform regular updates. This is one of the best ways to protect farms against the newest online threats.
Protecting Farms From Cybercriminals
Ag tech offers many benefits, but farms must ensure they have measures in place to protect themselves from online threats adequately. Proper cybersecurity practices give agriculture businesses peace of mind when utilizing this technology.