Why are cybercriminals targeting ag?

Cyber security experts speak in wake of JBS attack

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Security risk: Experts say attacks on agriculture are a rising trend and that simple tools can prevent devastating cyber threats.

Security risk: Experts say attacks on agriculture are a rising trend and that simple tools can prevent devastating cyber threats.

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Cyber security experts warn agriculture and agricultural industries are now more vulnerable than ever to vicious attacks from cyber criminals.

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Cyber security experts warn agriculture and agricultural industries are now more vulnerable than ever to vicious attacks from cyber criminals.

From phishing campaigns that spread malicious links and attachments to hacks on essential machinery, cyber crime is a constant and rising threat to the industry that is rapidly becoming more reliant on data.

BDO cyber security partner John Borchi said the targeting of agricultural companies by cyber criminals is no surprise.

"There is a large take up of technology within the agricultural sector, and wherever there is an increase of technology, there is a greater risk of digital attacks," Mr Borchi said.

"The main motivation for cyber criminals is money.

"Large corporations with lots of money are always attractive for cyber criminals, and if they can disrupt the operations forcing businesses to pay a ransom in order to get back up and running, well that's the best scenario for the attackers."

Mr Borchi said agriculture, like other industries, will be forced to become more resilient.

"The mining sector saw a similar trend 15 years ago, when they first started to implement automation and technology for their processes they were attacked all the time, now after the industry took a strong focus on the issue they're much more secure."

Cyber security expert and chair of UQ Cyber Security Professor Ryan Ko said addressing 'user apathy' and fixing 'digital hygiene' were the key tools in combating cyber crime.

"Most people assume that cyber crime will not happen to them," Prof Ko said.

"Digital literacy is important, as well as having a proactive mindset towards cyber awareness.

"Users should be sceptical about unsolicited emails that come their way and also constantly backing up their files, making sure they use two-factor authentication for all their logins."

"These are all the basics, but there's definitely potential for the agriculture sector to upskill in that area."

Prof Ko said the attack on Australia's largest meat processor JBS has highlighted the damage cyber crime can cause, blocking basic human necessities such as food and health care.

"We've seen in the health care sector attackers locking up hospitals, which could potentially delay treatment for people in ICU because the computers relied upon are affected," Prof Ko said.

"The JBS incident has highlighted how simple things like labelling or the computers controlling processing plants being locked up mean that whole operations cannot proceed with processing meat, which means a large loss of food and an impact on the economy.

Mr Borchi said that like any other side of business, if you need assistance you should look for qualified people.

"Organisations need to help themselves, just as you would get an expert to help you with your tax or grain, you should rely on qualified people for cyber security."

The story Why are cybercriminals targeting ag? first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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