Cyber security in agriculture: How to adopt technology and keep your business secure

Agribusinses Insights

Cyber security for Agribusiness

Innovative technology is a game-changer for agribusiness. This is because technology can help dull the impact of Mother Nature’s whims.

Weather events like droughts or floods can heavily affect the results of any agribusiness. Innovations in technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart sensors and self-driving machinery have helped to reduce that impact by making operations more efficient and cost-effective.

However, with great technology comes great risk.

As technology becomes more internet-connected, the opportunity for hackers to use these connections for nefarious purposes increases.

This means that cyber security in agriculture is now a pressing concern .

Two key risks emerge when it comes to technology within the agricultural sector.

The first relates to using common technology such as email. 

Inadequate security can leave your agribusiness vulnerable to cyber attacks. This can lead to data breaches and subsequent financial losses for agribusinesses, which can be devastating. We have all heard of phishing attacks that have led to data being stolen or Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks that have led to funds being stolen. Ransomware attacks that hold sensitive data hostage are also a growing concern in the agricultural industry.

Fortunately, some basic cyber security hygiene goes a long way to protecting agribusinesses from such attacks.

Simple cyber security measures to keep your agribusiness data secure.

These simple measures can help keep hackers at bay:

agricultural industry cyber risk

  • Don’t fall for email scams – If you don’t expect an email, ignore it. Don’t click on a link in an email. Clicking a link in a fraudulent email can take you to a phishing site that will look so real it will fool you into entering your login information. Type in the URL instead.
  • Anti-malware, personal firewall/security software – ensure all personal devices have these security devices installed and updated.
  • Strong passwords and multi-factor authentication – Password protect your devices including your Wi-Fi network, smartphones, and other smart devices such as smart watches or TVs. Don’t forget to use strong passwords that are at least 8 characters long and use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. You should also use multi-factor authentication for mobile device account (Apple ID, etc.) security.
  • Updates – Make sure any apps and software you use, including your web browsers and operating software, are updated regularly. Many updates are provided to address security issues as well as new features. Failure to update may allow cyber criminals to hack into your computer and steal data.
  • Create backups – Bad things can and do happen. Regularly backup important data so that you can recover these if your computer gets infected by ransomware. Backup your device regularly to a completely isolated device not on the same network and encrypt the backup. If you are the victim of a ransomware attack, you should never pay the ransom as there is no guarantee that you will get your data back.

Cyber security for smart technology used in the agricultural industry. 

The second area of risk lies with the use of IoT sensors on the farm and in machinery. If not secured, these devices can be easily hacked and tampered with.

This article highlights a real-world example of how smart tractors can be hacked and completely ‘bricked’.

Once again, some basic cyber security controls will help:

  • 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 them only on an as-needed basis
  • Updates – keep the device firmware and other software updated to protect them from cyber vulnerabilities
  • Backup – backup all configuration data regularly or whenever changes are made to have a ‘Plan B’ in case of a malware infection.

As the agribusiness sector seeks to exploit technology for operational efficiency, new risks related to this emerge that need to be addressed to protect agribusinesses from cyber attacks and related losses. Some basic steps outlined in this paper will go a long way to keeping hackers at bay.

RSM offers a wide range of services to identify and manage business risks by developing a business risk management plan. 

Reach out to your local RSM advisor today to find out how we can help secure your business.