The Federal Bureau of Investigation and USDA say farmers’ increased use of precision agriculture technology puts farmers at greater risk for cyber targeting by hackers who want to steal farm-level data in bulk.
Earlier this year, the FBI issued a Private Industry Notification, something the agency does when information obtained during investigations warrants a warning to potential victims. In this case, criminal hackers could aggregate stolen data or steal analyzed data to exploit U.S. agriculture resources and market trends, which is something farmers have already expressed concern about.
A 2014 American Farm Bureau Federation survey of 3,400 farmers found more than of half the respondents intended to invest in precision agriculture over the next two years. Three-quarters of respondents were worried unauthorized individuals could use their data for commodity market speculation. Only 5 percent of respondents were aware whether or not the companies holding their farm data had a security breach response plan.
To hinder hackers from getting to farm-level data, the FBI recommends farmers:
- Inquire how data management companies use and protect their data and to be mindful of the cybersecurity features implemented in precision agriculture technology.
- Monitor employee logins that occur outside of normal business hours.
- Use two-factor authentication for employee logins, especially remote logins.
- Create a centralized Information Technology e-mail account for employees to report suspicious e-mails.
- Provide regular training to remind and inform employees about current social engineering threats.
- Monitor unusual traffic, especially over non-standard ports.
- Monitor outgoing data and be willing to block unknown IP addresses.
- Close unused ports.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for remote login capability.