FBI warns of cyberattacks on agricultural cooperatives during planting season


Ransomware actors may be more likely to attack agricultural cooperatives during critical planting and harvesting seasons. Here are some tips to avoid attacks.

MOLINE, Ill. — As the United States enters planting season, the FBI has warned food and agricultural cooperatives that ransomware attacks may be more likely to occur during this critical time.

According to the FBI, cyberattacks during planting or harvesting seasons can disrupt operations, which could later lead to financial losses and negative impacts on the nation’s food supply chain.

New Cooperation, an association of corn and soybean growers in Iowa, was forced to take its systems offline in the face of a ransomware attack by BlackMatter last fall just as the corn and soybean harvest season Iowa soybeans were starting, the Associated Press reported.

The Iowa Co-op was able to ‘successfully contain’ the attack by immediately notifying law enforcement, taking systems offline and creating workarounds to continue receiving grain and distributing food for animals, according to the Associated Press.

Threat Mitigation, System Protection

As cyber threats continue to target weaknesses in networks, systems, and applications in the food and agriculture sector, the FBI has recommended that agricultural cooperatives take the following precautions to mitigate threats and protect themselves in the event of a cyberattack:

  • Back up data regularly and password protect backup copies.
  • Implement a data recovery plan that includes maintaining and keeping multiple copies of data and servers in a physically separate and secure location.
  • Identify critical functions and develop a plan to manually operate in the event of systems disconnection.
  • Install system, software and firmware updates as soon as they are released.
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Avoid reusing these passwords for multiple accounts.
  • Disable unused remote access.
  • Require administrator credentials to install any software.
  • Audit user accounts with administrative privileges and configure access to these controls with least privilege in mind.
  • Install and regularly update anti-virus and anti-malware software.
  • Use only secure networks and avoid using public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Consider installing and using a VPN.
  • Consider adding an email banner to emails from outside your organization.
  • Disable hyperlinks in incoming emails.
  • Focus on cybersecurity awareness and training.

In case of attack

The FBI has encouraged anyone who witnesses suspicious or criminal activity to come to your local FBI office. Those in Iowa should contact the Omaha, Nebraska office. Those in central and southern Illinois should contact the Springfield, Illinois office.

To find your local FBI office, click/tap here.


Comments are closed.