FBI alerts ag cooperatives increased cyberattacks during planting, harvest seasons

The FBI has advised ag cooperatives they could see an uptick in attempted cyberattacks during planting and harvest seasons.

George Grispos is an assistant professor of cyber security with the University of Nebraska at Omaha and says a successful attack could disrupt the food supply chain. “Right now, they’re trying to go for the biggest fish in the pond. How many people would be impacted like a stakeholder like this? If they were to attack my farm or your farm, they’re taking me and you out. They’re going to attack bigger players in the game right now, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stay like that.”

On Wednesday, the FBI issued a private industry notification saying ransomware attackers may see cooperatives as an easy target for their willingness to pay ransom because of the role they play in ag production. The agency’s notice says a co-op suffered a ransomware attack in March and another reported two instances in February where attacks were stopped. The FBI says there were at least seven grain cooperatives that suffered ransomware attacks in the fall.

He says producers and ag companies should take steps to protect their data. “Anything that comes through viral and email, be careful to click on any links. That’s the big one. Then start making sure your systems are up to date. Patch your operating systems and install any updates as soon as they become available.”

South Central Nebraska farmer Randy Uhrmacher tells Brownfield he doesn’t see this as a major issue, but is securing data by two-step verification and security software. “I’ve signed up for VPN and I run that on my farm computer, my Ipads and my telephone to try and eliminate people trying to track who I am and where I’m at.”

VPN is a virtual private network that allows users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their device was directly connected to a private network.

He says he doesn’t think he’s experienced a cyberattack. “Anything is possible.  You can always be attacked even with the best security.”

The FBI recommends several options like backing up data, two-step authentication verification, audit user accounts, use secure networks, disabling hyperlinks and focus on cyber security awareness and training.

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