Growers' businesses targeted by hackers

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17 March 2022
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Criminals set sights on agricultural businesses

POORLY-protected farm businesses are more at risk than ever from the threat of cyberattacks that not only compromise their own business, but can have repercussions for the whole supply chain, it has been claimed.

Latest research shows that small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are hacked every 19 seconds. Nadia Kadhim, Co-Founder and CEO of Naq Cyber, a company that helps businesses protect themselves against data breaches and cyber-attacks, said criminal groups are now targeting agricultural businesses more and more owing to the flow-on disruption to other industries, such as transport and retail.

Nadia, a former Child Rights Lawyer and GDPR expert turned cybersecurity start-up founder, said: "Quite simplistic but sophisticated methods are being used and agriculture is an easy target owing to the use of technology in many different aspects of the business.”

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Naq Cyber founders Nadia and Chris Clinton partnered with Farm491 after being contacted by several farm businesses that had been breached and seeking support. Farm491, a hub based at the Royal Agricultural University, supports entrepreneurs and innovators like Nadia to help grow the UK’s AgriTech ecosystem and promote the adoption of new technologies in the future of food production.

“Cyber security is about data, but also the system as a whole. One specific agricultural issue that we’ve been investigating with the help of Farm491 is that there is a large risk for some farms to be targeted by animal rights or vegan activists. We can support farms to take preventative action by scanning specific parts of the web to see if the farm name or location has been mentioned and if there are public events planned.
 
“Unfortunately, when SMEs are hacked, the financial loss can be between £8,000 to £300,000 alongside the loss of business, reputational damage, and operational disturbance. In addition, the Information Commissioner’s Office has also started to crack down on data breaches and non-compliance with GDPR with fines ranging from £15,000 - 25,000.”
 
More farmers have been creating websites since te outbreak of COVID-19 to support their marketing and this further increases their risk to cyber-attacks, she said.
 
“We take their website details and then scan the ‘dark web’, a hidden collective of internet sites favoured by hackers, for any mention of the farm which then feeds into their system. We use this combined with best practice cyber security to then create a Cyber Security Action Plan which details, step by step, what the company needs to do to protect themselves and why it is important.”

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Photo: Stillness InMotion