Agrelated cyber crime is on the increase and most farmers don39t have a plan for dealing with a data security breachmdashGetty ImagesDavid Ramos

Ag-related cyber crime is on the increase, and most farmers don't have a plan for dealing with a data security breach.—Getty Images/David Ramos

If you aren’t worried about data security, you should be

Hardly a week goes by that there isn’t news of some big retailer, government agency, or organization being the victim of data theft. Many incidents go unreported, because the companies or organizations don’t want their stockholders or supporters to know about the vulnerability.

Hackers can be anywhere: Russia, China, Iran. The internet has made data theft a booming, and profitable global business. Good guy hackers — those who look for weaknesses in systems in order to devise stronger protections, say flat out there is no computer system that can’t be invaded, given enough brainpower, time, and determination.

“There are people around the world who are waking up every day trying to figure out how to get into this data.”—Getty Images/Sean Gallup

Agriculture, which was somewhat laggard in embracing the digital world, is now one of the major users of digital systems and computer-controlled equipment. Law enforcement agencies and computer systems security experts are spreading the word that ag-related cyber crime is on the increase, and that those in the industry need to be alert to the fact that any system connected to the internet is subject to invasion.

In California, as an example, what’s described as “a sophisticated crime ring” is suspected of being responsible of stealing high dollar loads of nuts from local handlers by hacking Department of Transportation databases.

Earlier this year John Carlin, an assistant U.S. attorney general, spoke at Iowa ag meetings, and said because of the way American farmers have revolutionized agricultural production — particularly in the area of biotechnology research and the use of digital systems to generate data on farm operations and methods — the industry is increasingly a target of cyber crime.

A John Deere official says while agriculture has not yet been a prime target for hackers, “There are people around the world who are waking up every day trying to figure out how to get into this data.”

U.S. Homeland Security warns that “data breaches and manipulation are especially worrisome” in the ag sector, “considering that many rely on new farm management services that collect information” about farming operations to make planning and production decisions.

A Farm Bureau survey found 87 percent of U.S. farmers don’t have a response plan for dealing with a security breach at a company holding their data, and only about one in 20 said companies managing their data had presented a security breach plan.


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