Innovation in agribusiness is a constant. Mother nature heavily affects the results in any agribusiness. 

However, innovations in technology like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and self-driving machinery promise to improve operations by decreasing variability by making operations more efficient and cost effective.

However, with new technology come new risks. With internet-connected tech, there is the opportunity for hackers to use these connections for nefarious purposes. 

There are two key risks that emerge with technology in agribusiness. The first is in using email without adequate security. The second lies with the use of IoT sensors on the farm and in machinery. If not secured, these devices can be hacked and tampered with. View a real world example here.

Let’s examine each. 

With compromised email, data breaches and financial losses can be devastating. We know of phishing attacks that have led to funds being stolen from agribusinesses. 

Some basic cyber-security hygiene goes a long way to protecting agribusinesses from such attacks: 

  • Avoid email scams – if you don’t expect an email, ignore it and don’t click on the links. It’s easy to be fooled by a fraudulent phishing site that will look and seem authentic. So, stop before clicking a link to enter your login information, and type the URL you need instead.electronic folders
  • Install and update anti-malware, personal firewall / security software – on all personal devices.
  • Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication – for all devices including your Wi-Fi router and any smart devices. Make sure passwords have at least 10 characters with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Also make sure you enable multi-factor-authentication for your mobile device accounts (Apple ID, etc.)
  • Ensure regular updates – for all apps and software, especially web browsers and operating systems. Updates address security issues as well as new features. Neglecting updates can expose your systems to cyber threats.
  • Create backups – bad things can and do happen. Backup important data consistently to recover it from potential ransomware attacks. Use an isolated device not on the same network and encrypt the backup. Never pay the ransom as there is no guarantee that you will get your data back!

Some basic cyber security controls to help protect IoT sensors:

  • Inventory – know what smart equipment you have in use so you can secure them.
  • Password security – change all default usernames and passwords. Use secure passwords and if possible, enable two factor authentication. Unless needed, disable internet and remote access to these devices or allow only on an as needed basis.
  • Updates – keep the device firmware and other software updated. 
  • Backup – all configuration data regularly or whenever changes are made to have a ‘Plan B’ in case of a malware infection. 

As agribusiness embraces technological innovation, it's imperative to shield these advancements from cyber risks. The foundational security steps discussed will help protect against losses and keep hackers at bay, ensuring agribusiness thrives securely in the digital age. 


If you would like to learn more about the topics discussed in this article, please contact your local RSM adviser.