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Protecting Your Farm Against Cyber Attacks  

Learn more about cybersecurity in agriculture and how to keep your operation’s data protected.  

Agriculture technology—such as GPS yield mapping, smart cloud computing, AI robotics, and more—is becoming increasingly imperative for farmers to improve operational efficiency and reduce the labor required to feed a growing population. But even so, there are several roadblocks facing widespread adoption, including rural broadband connectivity and the increased risk of farm cyber attacks.  

As we rely on ag technology now more than ever, increasing rural broadband is vital to our domestic food security.  

Fortunately, there are tangible actions you can take to protect your operation from a cyber attack and safeguard your data.  

In this article, we’ll explain: 

  • The benefits of agriculture technology; 
  • Recent cyber attacks; and 
  • How to protect your farm against cyber attacks. 

The Benefits of Agriculture Technology 

Even though integrating ag tech into an operation increases risk of a cyber attack, many farmers are finding that the benefits often outweigh the risk when proper mitigation steps are followed. Relying more on ag tech increases efficiency and helps meet consumer demand with fewer workers. With farm labor becoming more difficult to source, agriculture technology is a viable alternative to ensure essential tasks are completed.  

A Caledonia Solution’s study reported that precision technology adoption doubled on farms from 2013 to 2019. These adopters saw an 11 percent average increase in crop production and a nine percent average decrease in input expenses. In addition, farm computer usage increased by almost 150 percent between 1997 and 2019.  

Automated equipment is linked together in the internet-of-things (IoT), through a network of programmable logic controllers (PLCs). IoT technology integration provides farmers access to metrics that analyze and measure a farm operation’s success. Implementing information-based technology enables farmers to make data-driven decisions and provides maximum usability of crops through cloud-based computing. For instance, there is software available to fine-tune soil properties and create site-specific fertilizer. Smart technology can also monitor crop stress, detect pest outbreaks, and provide weather predictions from advanced weather models. 

Recent Cyber Attacks in Agriculture 

The rapid adoption of ag technology has brought with it a wave of cybercriminal activity targeting the food and ag sector in recent years. The adoption of agriculture technology means farmers and ranchers are at a higher risk for cyber attacks. Big corporations are typically the most susceptible, however, increasing digitalization within small and mid-size operations is making them a target as well. 

On September 1, 2021, the FBI released a notification report sounding the alarm on cybercriminals increasingly targeting the food and ag sector due to the adoption of smart technologies and the internet of things (IoT).  

For instance, six attacks against grain cooperatives occurred in the fall of 2021. And in early 2022, two ag-related attacks occurred that temporarily disrupted seed and fertilizer supply. 

Six Ways to Protect Your Farm Against Cyber Attacks 

The lingering impact cyber threats have on our nation’s food supply makes securing data and operational technology a top priority among farmers. There are several strategies you can implement to protect yourself and your operation from cybersecurity threats. 

1. Implement a Screening Policy for Phishing Campaigns 

Phishing campaigns are relatively easy to spot when you know what to look for and are among the most common cyber threats that involve malicious links sent via email. These links contain malware that—when clicked—give cybercriminals access to financial information and the potential to manipulate digital operating systems. Cybercriminals can use current events to fuel their cyber attacks. By referencing current issues, they can induce panic that makes people more likely to do what the attacker wants.  

The Jahns Research Group refers to these smart technology disruptions as AAAA Threats—cyber attacks, cyber accidents, acts of nature, and AI control threats— and can inhibit the planting and cultivation of crops. Compromised data can also interfere with the transportation and processing of agricultural goods. 

Before clicking on links from what you believe to be reputable sources, check for these signs of a phishing email scam: 

  • Sender’s email address – does not match the sender’s name and seems off. 
  • Generic greeting – such as “Hi Sir” or “Hi Mam.” 
  • Spelling errors – odd grammatical errors and sentence structure. 
  • Sense of urgency – telling you to click immediately or that there are limited supplies available. 
  • Request for personal information –asking for personal or financial information through email or text. 

Pro tip: Implementing security awareness training for employees can help ensure incoming messages are properly screened. 

2. Protect User Credentials 

If multiple people are accessing your software, use separate login credentials with different access options when possible. Updating passwords every quarter will keep data more secure and out of the wrong hands. 

3. Back Up Files 

In the event of ransomware infiltrating data, be sure to back up your data frequently. You can do this with different computers, on a secure cloud, or both. Backing up data will make you less vulnerable if a ransomware attacker attempts to hold your data hostage. 

4. Keep Software Updated 

As infrastructure evolves, so should your antivirus software. Software updates often fix flaws within the system. While it might take a few extra minutes to run updates when they are available, doing so decreases software vulnerability and the chances of it being taken over by malware. 

5. Have a Contingency Plan in Place 

According to a 2014 Farm Bureau survey, 87 percent of farmers do not have a contingency plan in place in the event of a cyber security breach. Only one in 20 farmers surveyed said the companies managing their information had provided a plan for them. 

Having a detailed plan in place in case your operation’s data is compromised in a cyber attack can help you respond faster and minimize its impact. 

6. Avoid Releasing Sensitive Information Through Written Forms of Communication 

To protect yourself and your employees, save the transfer of sensitive data for verbal or in-person interactions. Avoid transmitting personal information through emails, texts, or other forms of online messaging. If you do need to send something digitally, ensure that you are encrypting emails with sensitive information prior to sending. 

How Is AgAmerica Keeping Our Data Secure? 

Our team works tirelessly to protect the data of American farmers and ranchers. We have data security protocols and robust safeguards, such as data encryption and malware protection, in place to protect our clients and employees. Our mobile-friendly website makes it easy for farmers to navigate and access their information with ease. We also conduct annual vulnerability testing and ongoing cybersecurity training for our employees to ensure they are implementing online safety procedures while working remotely and in the office.  

Invest in Ag Tech with Working Capital Loans 

While there are cybersecurity risks to be mindful of, adopting agriculture technology can be highly beneficial to your operation’s growth. By taking action to safeguard your data, cyber attacks can be mitigated.  

AgAmerica understands that agriculture is an evolving industry, and it’s important to keep up with industry advancements to stay competitive. That’s why we offer both financing and educational resources that help farmers safely adopt new technologies. 

Invest in your operation with the help of AgAmerica’s flexible working capital loans. 

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AgAmerica Lending® LLC is a licensed mortgage lender. NMLS ID# 372267

Copyright AgAmerica® LLC 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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AgAmerica - An Equal Opportunity Lender

AgAmerica Lending® LLC is a licensed mortgage lender. NMLS ID# 372267

Copyright AgAmerica® LLC 2022. All Rights Reserved.