Worldwide farm agriculture equipment maker AGCO suffered a crippling cyberattack last May when access to its computer system was shut down by ransomware. Ransomware is malicious software designed to block access to a computer system and hold it hostage until money is paid. The Duluth, Georgia, based company has not divulged how much money, if any, it paid out to criminals but stated that the majority of its operation was secured and back up and running after a week.
More than 1.2 million ransomware threats per month have been detected by Barracuda Networks between January to June 2022, which was higher than the same period in 2021, TechRepublic reported. For that reason, farmers should also be concerned as they adopt more on-farm smart technologies.
A University of Guelph computer scientist is now in charge of the only Canadian university research center investigating an increasing number of cyberattacks on farm networks. Besides helping farmers fight off hackers, Dr. Ali Dehghantanha hopes his pioneering research helps arm producers in preventing such attacks and spurs governments to develop data security standards for the agricultural sector.
“We need to think about it before things get out of control,” said Dehghantanha, whose Cyber Science Lab is part of the School of Computer Science at the university. Smart farming and the increasingly interconnected sensors, smart meters, cameras, and other devices leave farmers more vulnerable to “data insecurity” and potential cyberattacks, the Guelph researcher said.
“The level of cybersecurity protection in agriculture is minimal to non-existent,” Dehghantanha said. “The agricultural sector is a soft underbelly from a cybersecurity point of view.”
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