May 19, 2022
Fargo, US 57 F

How Ag Businesses Can Keep Information Safe from Cyber Attacks

Cyber breaches hit a record high $4.2 million in 2021. The food and agriculture sector found itself in the crosshairs of multiple cyber-attacks in 2021. The most notable were on JBS beef plants and grain co-ops.

Food and agriculture is deemed as one of 16 critical infrastructure sectors. With this string of attacks, there is a question if agriculture is an easy target.

“Folks think about retailers and hospitals, but we don’t think about agriculture as having a lot of personal data information. When you think about how integrated our world is now—critical machinery is operated from a distance, operated remotely. Our service providers have access to our systems for maintenance or upgrades. Folks can get into our systems and shut down the actual operation of the plant, and that causes significant disruptions if you’re not able to take in product, release product, make shipments to customers.”

Jodie DeVries, managing director for Marsh. there are several types of breeches. They’ve transformed from privacy breeches to more advanced ransomware attacks.

“That would be where someone finds a way into your system and locks you out of your own system, then requests a ransom for you to get access back to your own system.”

Cyber insurance will protect your business if personal customer information is breeched—such as driver’s licenses, credit card numbers, and health records. DeVries says this practice hasn’t been widely adopted by the ag sector.

“A lot of times we get the question of, ‘Do we spend our money to make the investment in these security controls, or do we buy cyber insurance because we don’t have all of this money to be investing in both places.’ It’s coverage that should be considered, and certainly as catastrophic cover. The average downtime for a cyber breach is 23 days. If you think about how much business or revenue you would lose if you could not operate for 23 days, that’s a significant impact.”

Most of the time, DeVries says these bad actors can get into systems from individuals clicking on links on suspicious emails. When available, she recommends multi-factor authentication to keep your information safe.

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