As rural industries increasingly adopt digital technology and solutions, a new threat is emerging – security of processes and data. Given the interconnectedness of devices through seemingly innocent websites and emails, the weakest link in the chain can result in security breaches with potentially devastating consequences.
Experience shows that cyber criminals are looking for sectors and organisations which are digitally exposed, and which might not have built adequate defences.
According to a recent publication issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the agricultural community is particularly at risk of hacking, viruses, and other theft due to the recent proliferation of software packages it uses.
Cyber security threats on farm can be far reaching and include areas such as; access to infrastructure (controls for intensive livestock sheds for example), personal privacy, proprietary information (sensitive farm information), and IP (skills, knowledge and data from farming systems). Even a short outage can result in significant business and animal welfare consequences. There is also potential for data manipulation, misreporting and reputational damage.
The opportunity exists to learn from strategies implemented by other industries such as healthcare (ransomware threats), government agencies (data mining and identity theft) and the energy industry (hackers disrupting energy supplies to then access other sectors e.g. defence). Greater awareness of the strategies deployed by high profile targets enables rural industries to “learn from the best” and implement appropriate risk mitigation strategies.
Ultimately, rural industries need to understand their own cyber fragility and prepare accordingly.
This work is designed to provide improved understanding of cyber threats to rural and allied businesses. For example, agricultural technology developers need to be fully aware of threats and include appropriate protections during product design stages.