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Agriculture hackers attacking farmers

Hackers are increasingly targeting agriculture to manipulate data and shut down processing plants

By Terry Cutler

Technology in agriculture was a few milking machines and farmers hand-fed their animals. Wholesome is a word that comes to mind—Milk and eggs on the table, a family at work on the farm, are just some of the images filling our senses. 

However, far from our nostalgic images are the present-day agriculture practises of software systems and computerized livestock monitoring systems plugging the world’s agricultural practices into the internet—and allowing hackers through the front doors of the barn.  

Agriculture exposed

With the entry of new technologies to speed up and boost a more efficient livestock production, much of it linked control systems (Smart sensors, temperature monitors, herd data, food processing, transport routes, etc.) to the internet, anywhere in the agricultural process is exposed. 

For example, a hacker taking a stand on the antibiotics administered to cows can make it appear that herds of cows have been infected, even after administering those antibiotics. Once a hacker steals a farmer’s herd information, they can modify the data and post on the internet that the herds have been infected with a disease. 

The farmer must prove otherwise. They must inspect all cows in the herd, a costly job that affects the entire agricultural process. A farmer may feel forced to end the practice of administering antibiotics; as you can guess, the consumer pays the price at the grocer or with a disease that may have been prevented at the source through antibiotics. 

Other risks

Other risk examples include hacking diagnostic software that controls watering systems, automatic feeding systems, and solid monitoring systems. Furthermore, vehicle and machinery equipment have built-in diagnostic systems connected to farm computer systems, a perfect entry point to lay down footprints or slow down production. 

The most noticeable agriculture hack occurred in 2021 when hackers likely from Russia attacked the meatpacking giant JBS and installed ransomware, shutting down operations in Australia, Canada, and the US for four days. The FBI noted it was more than likely REvil, one of many Russian hacker gangs.

According to reports, hackers temporarily took a bite out of almost a quarter of US beef processing. JBS is the world’s largest meat supplier with more than 150 plants in 15 countries with over 159,000 employees. The mega-company serves customers in the fast-food industry and big-chain grocery stores. 

The cost? JBS reported it paid an $11 million ransom in Bitcoin to the hackers behind the attack to protect more of its data. Andre Nogueira, CEO, JBS USA, said in a June 2021 company statement, “…we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers.”

Cyology Labs recommends maintaining regular updates on all your software deploying patches after attacks to lock out any hacker using ransomware. The experts at Cyology Labs can run full security audits on your network and make recommendations, update existing software and deploy patches. 

Watch our latest video to save your business from Cyber Attacks – https://youtu.be/Z4eKHxE6mnU or head over to https://www.cyologylabs.com/start to learn more!

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