North Dakota Ag Operations Vulnerable To Ransomware Cyberattacks
If agriculture didn't already come with a long growing list of risks now producers can now add cyber-hijacking to the top of the list.
Ransomware attackers beginning to target smaller producers and cooperatives.
Years ago when computers first began to become critical to our business and personal lives, there was this bit of wisdom that sprang up from our reliance on machines. There are two types of people. Those that back up, and those that soon will. Meaning of course, that when your computer crashed you lost vital information that could have been retained through redundancy. So out of necessity we dutifully put in place backup systems and continued to update our virus protection. Don't want to get a nasty virus.
CryptoLocker ransomware certainly fits the definition of a nasty virus.
KnowBe4 is a think tank advisor group that the company I work for utilizes to stay agile in an age of constant attacks. Click that link to get a more detailed description and history of CryptoLocker and its many nefarious counterparts. Basically, it infiltrates your system through something as innocent as clicking on a link in an email. It can then block access to files, lock files, and delete original files. But there is a key that can revert control of your files back to you...at a very steep price of course.
Since most of the ransomware stories we hear about involve multi-million dollar industries, it's easy to assume they wouldn't be interested in the smaller fish. Well, there's a great article just published on Agweek.com written by editor Jenny Schlecht who farms and ranches with her family in Medina, North Dakota.
Reports of hacking attacks on producers and co-ops are on the increase.
It's hard to track exactly how much of an increase it is because not everyone reports the crime. It's not like someone broke into your barn. These hacker threats can shut down your operation immediately. They can share your accounts and the account information of your clients. They can permanently destroy the information that is vital to continuing your operation. So people pay them off. Go ahead and scream it to the heavens- I'm not paying any lowlife hijacker! Never going to happen! After a couple of days- out comes the checkbook. Who wants to admit they almost lost everything to some cyberthief?
A ransomware attack just happened on September 19th at Crystal Valley Co-op in Minnesota.
It was the second such attack on an ag operation in less than a week. The FBI is warning agriculture producers that they are being targeted. It's not just a seasonal attack, these hackers will keep exploiting weaknesses in systems until those weaknesses are mended like a fence. So what to do? This again from AgWeek
Before long, it'll be winter and meetings season will be upon us. I'm expecting and hoping, that ag groups will take these threats seriously and get some cybersecurity experts on their agendas this winter. We've got such experts right here in this region, with the University of Minnesota's Food Protection and Defense Institute, and I'm sure there are many others.
This isn't the random viral attacks of the past these are the ransom attacks of the present and they'll accept your money regardless of the size of your operation.
Here's a link that may start you down the path to better security. But like the bad guys, security sites want your money too. Hopefully, they earn it.