Technology for many industries is critical in allowing businesses to run and complete everyday tasks. The farming and agriculture sector is no different, and this presents the sector with many opportunities to become victims of cybercrime.
Farming in 2021 sees many farms relying on GPS mapping, soil sensors, drones, and automated tractors, and with each of these, an opportunity for cyber criminals to strike. In particular, a ransomware attack, which is when a user or entire business can no longer access the system and files, they need to run their business. To get the access back, the attacker will often demand a ransom payment and if a business fails to pay up, the data will be stolen and/or deleted.
Most of today’s farming equipment has incorporated sophisticated software that allows for better data control, transparency, and safety through curated software-security designs. With such advances in technology, must come advances in using and adopting robust security protections.
Attacks are on the rise
Sadly, advances in technology are not the only entry point for cyber criminals. Simply having an email address or online banking increases the chances of cyber threats. The risks become much more significant with the uptake of investment in high-spec tech in a sector which is relatively new to digital-centric approaches to running a business.
Official statistics continue to show a rise in reports of cyber-attacks against the farming community, with many falling foul to spoof farm machinery adverts that can leave farmers thousands of pounds out of pocket.
We all keep information about ourselves and our businesses electronically. This is particularly true for the agricultural sector, which makes use of many ‘smart’, internet connected systems as well as the usual email and accounting packages.
These internet-connected technologies have become central to the way we live and do business today. As a direct result, they have become an attractive target for cyber criminals. This is why it’s so important to secure all the digital aspects of your business.
By understanding the digital aspects of your business, you will be better placed to act against common cyber risks. Digital aspects include things like updating your computers, safely using your smartphones, and installing security cameras.
The one aspect that is often missed is your online activity, you must consider all the online accounts that you use. This means banking, email and social media but also things like the Rural Payments service, HMRC online services, online shopping and cloud document storage (e.g. Office365, Google Docs, DropBox etc).
Top tips for improved cyber security
Ensure computers and mobile phones are set to install automatic updates
Replace old hardware, which may be more vulnerable to attack
Back up your data – perhaps on an external hard drive or USB stick or a cloud-based option
Switch on password protection and use fingerprint or face ID on mobile devices
Use things like tracking modes and remote data erasing modes on mobile devices
Download anti-virus products to protect from “malware” (malicious software)
Activate firewalls to create a buffer between your network and the internet
How can The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands help my business?
The WMCRC is here to grow and strengthen the region's resilience to online crime. By working in conjunction with local universities and the regions local forces, we possess the latest information on emerging cyber threats, criminal trends and best safeguarding practice. This enables us to provide you with timely guidance to prepare and protect your business, staff and customers from cyber criminals.
Here at WMCRC, we provide guidance and toolkits that help businesses improve their cyber resilience and mitigate the threat posed by cyber criminals.
The first step to cyber resilience is knowledge. That’s why our core, free membership option provides you with regular guidance articles, toolkits and resources alongside a monthly newsletter that keeps you updated on the latest news, views, guidance and events relevant to the region’s business community.
Book a chat with Danielle Healy, our Membership and Services Advisor or Detective Inspector, Michelle Ohren our Head of Cyber and Innovation to learn more about how the WMCRC can work with you.