Admittedly, up until recently as a “non-millennial” among a few other things, I did not have a laser focus on Cybersecurity. After all, this is a white-collar concern, isn’t it? We often find in rural communities that broadband access or performance is not on par with larger metro areas.
Agriculture continues to adopt advanced technology and farm information management systems, including crops and livestock. Precision agriculture is here to stay and will continue to expand throughout the United States. Unfortunately, these sophisticated technologies are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. The instinctive reaction, at least for me, is “yeah but only large farms will be targeted”, but the reality is any operators that have digitized, continue to or plan to need to pay attention.
As more and more agribusiness operators embrace “precision agriculture” by introducing sophisticated technology, it is being increasingly targeted by cybercriminals. Large corporate farms are more obvious targets, but small and midsize operations that have embraced digitalization are equally at risk.
A Farm Journal survey discovered that less than 20 percent of interviewed farms felt confident in their data security. As recently as 2014, a Farm Bureau study found that 87 percent of farmers did not have a contingency plan to manage security breaches.
Time to focus
Throughout, the supply chain food commodities are a part of a widely interconnected system that is often under-secured, giving cybercriminals multiple areas to attack:
- Manipulation of farm machinery, packing lines, refrigeration systems
- Loss of customer data, confidential contracts, or proprietary data
- Corporate espionage by domestic or international competitors, i.e., global supply chains
- Theft, loss, or unauthorized disclosure of corporate personal information
- Rehabilitation of brands and business interruption; lost opportunity costs
- Theft of customer and third-party information.
Agribusiness has rightfully had a laser focus on food safety, sustainability and survival, because we had to. Our food supply has never been safer, and most operators are better today than they were yesterday. Some of this has resulted and will continue to result from new technologies, but I argue most of it originates from good old fashioned “grit”, just like it always has. As a result of these newer attacks and vulnerabilities faced by all, it may now again be time to dig a bit deeper for another dose of it.
Best Management Practices
If you have read this far, you may be thinking, “what’s all this fuss about”? Our operation takes on significant risks each year, and for that matter, often daily. We understand and respect that, but we are encouraging folks to take a hard look at their practices and processes in all areas that have been digitized. It is prudent, like with everything else being done, that operators move toward best management practices (BMP’s), because while buying Cyber Insurance may not be the right form of protection for your operation, doing all you can to avoid cyber issues is a best management practice that helps to ensure family legacies are sustained and protected.
Insurance Management Consultancy Group is an entrepreneurial centric insurance brokerage delivering exceptional value to the constituencies we are privileged to serve. IMCG partners have been serving agribusiness interests for over fifty years and are honored to contribute toward protecting stakeholder interests and family legacies. We look toward growing together.