3 Tips to Protect Farms from a Cyber Threat

(NC) From automated equipment like a programmed irrigation system, to a weather tracking app, to an online database for suppliers or distributors, there are any number of internet-connected parts of a farm that can leave it vulnerable to cyber threats without proper precautions.

Cyber disruptions such as a breach of confidential employee information, a ransomware takeover that locks you out of your systems and demands a fee, or a technological equipment failure can cause serious problems for farmers. It can eat into your profits, weaken consumer trust in your business and limit your ability to deliver on contracts.

When the farms that feed our communities are at risk, there’s a lot at stake to protect.

Here are three ways to help protect a farm from cyber security disruptions.

  1. Be aware online
    Unlike many other essential sectors, such as health care, farming technologies are regularly connected to farmers’ home internet networks and personal cellphones. This means taking standard steps to be safe online is even more important than usual, since a breach on your home network could impact business systems in addition to personal finances. If possible, use a virtual private network (VPN) to access your on-farm digital systems instead of using public Wi-Fi.Scammers try to trick people into revealing personal or sensitive information they can use to hold people to ransom, take funds or steal identities. When using email or social media, always be mindful of whom you’re interacting with and what you share. Don’t open links in emails or texts from sources you don’t recognize.
  2. Use safeguards
    Beyond being careful online, a few simple things can go a long way. Up-to-date software, hardware and patches mean the latest manufacturer protections, so make sure to install them regularly.Backup your information often – and to a hard drive, not just online storage – so you can access your data if your network ever becomes compromised.Use unique, strong passwords and turn on multi-factor authentication for online or digital accounts. That’s when you must input a code sent to you through a text or email after entering your password online.
    In addition to the steps above, make a guide or plan of action. Map out your on-farm networks and digital systems, and the hardware that connects to them, including computers, mobile devices, sensors, servers, automated equipment, environmental controls and financial systems.Then, identify steps to protect yourself and your business, such as good online safety habits like using a secure internet connection. Make a list of suppliers, IT service providers and sector associations. Also identify steps you will take if you face a cyber threat and what you will do to recover quickly.
  3. Report cyber incidents
    If you suspect that your farm may have fallen victim to a cyber incident, promptly report your concerns to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security’s Cyber Centre.

Find more information and resources to help you stay cyber safe at agriculture.canada.ca/cyber-security-farming-business.


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