Fighting cyberthreats isn’t the realm of office workers. A growing number of ag producers are getting work done online, so to speak, using connected technologies to streamline production, minimize inputs and make quick work of complicated financial tasks, from paying bills to measuring the financial health of the operation.
Unfortunately, even the family farmer faces threats from cyberattacks, which can disrupt operations, cause financial loss and even impact food supplies. In April 2022, the FBI issued a warning about ransomware attacks targeting the ag cooperatives during planting and harvest seasons when busy producers working on deadline have less time to pay attention to bolstering online security.
What’s noteworthy is it wasn’t until recently these potential threats against agri-business became a topic of discussion. So far, cyber thieves have targeted large beef processing plants and larger cooperatives. But as the FBI warns, it’s important to recognize that anyone using connected technology is vulnerable, even individual farmers.
With livelihoods and the food supply at stake, Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a great opportunity for lending partners and clients to raise awareness on cybersecurity to protect data and ensure control of their technologies and finances.
Identifying cyberthreats plaguing smart farming tools
Smart farming tools give producers the intelligence they need to use land, water, fuel, fertilizer and pesticides more efficiently than ever, empowering growers to reduce inputs and bolster yields. However, the GPS technology, Wi-Fi connectivity and artificial intelligence provide an opening for hackers, if the right precautions aren’t taken.
These cybercriminals might install ransomware (which denies the owner access to the system and files until they make a ransom payment), or hack the controls on the precision ag tools causing the producer to question the validity of the tools.
Shielding financial info from phishing schemes
Another area of awareness for ag producers is how adoption of fintech tools in agriculture can leave them open to theft. Whether they access these tools through their lender or independently download an enticing new financial app, these tools help ag producers get more done in less time. Today’s fintech tools widen the access to loans, bank accounts, market commodities and can consolidate all financial data and activity into a single platform. Quick access, integration and insights give farmers the power to save time, check on their operation’s financial health and identify opportunities to boost margins.
As useful as these tools are, ag producers need to stay aware that conducting business online can make them targets of cybercriminals looking for ways to gain access to their accounts or use deception to access funds. Cyberattacks are becoming more destructive and impactful, costing small businesses anywhere from $120,000 to $1.24 million.
Partnering with solutions
Lenders should continue their focus on providing messaging, resources and security tactics that keep their ag clients aware of opportunities to combat cyberthreats like identify theft, data breeches and phishing attacks. When livelihoods are on the line, it makes all the difference.