As one walks through rows of corn on a beautiful summer day, rides in the cab of tractor combining fields, breathes in the smells of a delivery to the local granary, or shops in the local smokehouse and butcher shop for this week’s dinners, there is often little thought or concern given to how a cybersecurity risk could disrupt any of those things. The food supply chain is one of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors designated by the Department of Homeland Security. Yet, it still does not receive the level of security concern as other sectors like airline security or the energy sector.
Modern farming, ranching, and related agricultural industries rely on technology for everything from tractor autosteer to precision planting delivery systems to animal health status sensors to complex warehouse produce & product distribution systems and more. Many of the companies throughout the whole food chain process are interdependent. A stoppage in one section of the chain has a ripple effect throughout the entire agricultural sector. We saw some of this during the non-computer related COVID-19 issues.
Do Cybercrimes really happen in the Food & Ag. Industry?
Although Cybercrimes have been most prevalent in the financial sectors, there has been an increase of activity in the Food and Agricultural sector. Here are a few food/Ag related attacks in 2021:
The Fort Dodge New Cooperative – September 2021
A large farm cooperative that operates grain, pork, poultry, fertilizer, and storage operations in 60 locations across Iowa was hit with a ransomware attack and their systems and proprietary data were held captive for a $5.9 million ransom. The company was forced to take its integrated computer systems offline and find work-arounds to restructure.
JBS Foods – May 2021
A ransomware attack that disrupted meat processing across North American and Australia for a week. The ripple effect of the attack caused consumer meat prices to drastically increase, farms and ranches could not get their animals to market which caused a drop in wholesale prices, and restaurants and stores could not get their needed meat supplies.
JFC International – February 2021
A ransomware attack on a major distributor and wholesaler that serves the European and US markets. The attack briefly disrupted its IT systems, and they were able to return to normal operations.
What can be done?
Like regular crime, cyber crime is here to stay. Ignoring it will not solve the problem. Each farm, ranch, granary, feed mill, supplier, and commercial business needs to analyze their operation to determine what their plan of action needs to be. How many and what type of devices are on your network? Do you have devices that access your network recorded or logged in with an IT department? Do your devices have access to the internet? Do you have encryption for sensitive data? Do you have a policy and procedure in place to address a data breach or attack?
How can you protect yourself?
What if something happens where your operation and your customers’ private information are victims of a successful cyber-attack? The cost to recover lost data, notify customers, notify authorities, make restitution to your customers, replace software, systems, or machines, pay for emergency security, pay for litigation expenses, repair your reputation, and more can be quite significant.
Obtaining Cyber Liability Insurance will address the security risk your operation faces. There is no standard form of Cyber Liability Insurance.