Be aware of ransomware attacks in agriculture


By Julie Tomascik

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) cyber division recently published an alert warning the food and agriculture sectors that ransomware attacks may be more likely during the planting season.

Financial loss, loss of productivity, remediation costs, loss of proprietary information or personally identifiable information and reputational damage are just some of the losses businesses may incur from a ransomware or cyberattack, according to the FBI.

This warning is one of many issued by the FBI over the past year regarding cybersecurity in agriculture and the increased risk of ransomware attacks.

The FBI noted the importance of agriculture and the impact that potential ransomware attacks could have on the country.

“A significant disruption of grain production could impact the entire food chain, since grain is not only consumed by humans but also used for animal feed. In addition, a significant disruption of grain and corn production could impact commodities trading and stocks,” the warning state. “An attack that disrupts processing at a protein or dairy facility can quickly result in spoiled products and have cascading effects down to the farm level as animals cannot be processed.”

The FBI also outlined steps to help protect businesses, including:

Regularly back up data, air gap and password protect backup copies offline.
Implement a recovery plan that includes maintaining and retaining multiple copies of sensitive or proprietary data and servers in a physically separate, segmented and secure location.
Identify critical functions and develop an operations plan in the event that systems go offline.
Implement network segmentation.
Install updates/patch operating systems, software and firmware as soon as they are released.
Use multifactor authentication where possible.
Use strong passwords and regularly change passwords to network systems and accounts.
Disable unused remote access/RDP ports and monitor remote access/RDP logs.
Require administrator credentials to install software.
Audit user accounts with administrated or elevated privileges and configure access controls with least privilege in mind.
Install and regularly update anti-virus and anti-malware software on all hosts.
Only use secure networks and avoid using public wi-fi networks.
Consider adding an email banner to messages coming from outside your organization.
Disable hyperlinks in received emails.
Focus on cyber security awareness and training regularly.

For additional resources related to the prevention and mitigation of ransomware, visit stopransomware.gov.

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