The FBI’s April 20 warning was chilling: ransomware actors may be more likely to attack agricultural cooperatives during critical planting and harvesting seasons. Their objective? To disrupt operations, cause financial loss and negatively impact the food supply chain.
The bureau noted that six agricultural cooperatives had already faced ransomware attacks during the 2021 fall harvest and two in early 2022.
You may have brushed off the threat, thinking your farm or ranch isn’t big enough for a ransomware attack, that cybercriminals are looking for bigger, more lucrative targets.
But cyber threats take many forms. Hackers will attempt to break into and steal from businesses of all sizes. You can be sure that someone, somewhere is stealing your data or even your identity, whether through your on-farm trading system, smartphone or personal computer.
Remember that anything connected to the Internet is vulnerable to a cyberattack. It’s not just your own activity, but everyone else on your network that may be at risk. Here’s another reality: If you participated in an agricultural or government program, your information, including your Social Security or tax ID number, is available.
Cybercriminals often start with phishing attacks, according to Verizon. Attackers use email, social media, or other apps to send messages that look legitimate but contain malicious links or attachments. The attacker’s goal is to trick you, a family member or employee into clicking on the fake link or attachment and providing login credentials to sensitive information or executing harmful code.
Another cybersecurity weakness is unpatched software that opens the door for attackers to exploit known security bugs on your systems that lack the proper patch. Cybercriminals usually survey your network to detect unpatched systems so they can launch an attack.
Weak passwords, compromised credentials, and poor encryption can also allow hackers to gain unauthorized access to your systems.
Yes, some cybercrimes lead to multi-million dollar ransomware attacks that hit bigger companies. But online hackers will also attempt to infiltrate your system to steal intellectual property, sensitive records or other data. And anyone can be vulnerable to identity theft, where clever thieves look for ways to steal your personal information in order to gain control or open new accounts, file false tax returns, rent or buy property or commit other criminal acts in your name.
Regardless of the size of your business, be sure to have an ongoing prevention plan in place, as well as detection strategies, so that in the event of a security breach, you can act quickly to identify it and minimize potential losses.
You can find recommendations on the FBI website, www.fbi.gov, and many other sites to mitigate and protect against ransomware and other cyberattacks. The office is also urging people to call one of its offices if you see anything suspicious or have any issues and problems.
Here are some basic steps to protect against cyberattacks:
1. Don’t click on a link when you don’t know where it takes you.
2. Use very strong passwords and change them several times a year. This applies to your computer, social media accounts, and even home devices like your thermostat and Alexa.
3. Use a two-factor authentication process.
4. Implement software patches and updates as soon as they are released.
5. Install and regularly update anti-virus and anti-malware software on all hosts.
6. Only use secure networks and avoid using public Wi-Fi networks. Consider installing and using a virtual private network, or VPN.
7. Ask about an identity theft protection program or provider. These programs will monitor your accounts and scan for threats. If your credit card or bank account is compromised, it can be very time-consuming and frustrating to cancel your credit cards and prove that you are who you say you are. These services will work with you to resolve the issue.
8. As a business, the best thing you can do to limit the risk of cyberattacks is to hire cybersecurity personnel. At the very least, find a vendor or expert you trust who is trained to identify and fix security risks.
9. Invest in training your employees to focus more on cybersecurity awareness.
“Today’s cyber threats are more pervasive, strike a wider variety of victims, and can cause greater damage than ever before,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Alliance Security Council. indoors on April 27.
Be sure to do all you can to protect yourself from a crime that can wreak havoc on your business and cause devastating financial loss.
Editor’s Note: Maxson Irsik, CPA, advises owners of professionally run agribusinesses and family ranches on how to achieve their goals. Whether an owner’s goal is to expand and grow the business, discover and leverage core competencies, or protect the current owners’ legacy through careful estate structuring and planning, Max applies his experience working and managing his own family’s farm to find innovative ways to make it a reality. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.