Home » cyber security » Hacking the Heartland (Part 3): Safeguarding Farming Data

Hacking the Heartland (Part 3): Safeguarding Farming Data

Drive through any stretch of American farmland, and you’ll see miles of reinforced fencing that protects crops and keeps out unauthorized visitors. It’s clear that security is a high priority at these critical purveyors of the U.S. food supply — and, of course, that’s for good reason.

However, in an increasingly data-centered world, U.S. farms and agricultural companies have rapidly changed how they do business and remain competitive. Much like U.S. healthcare vendors — who have undergone a lightning-fast shift toward digital storage and sharing patient records — ag businesses find themselves working frantically to keep pace with technology.

And those digital fences need some serious work.

For some time, agribusiness leaders such as Monsanto and Deere have maintained records on their customers for payment and basic record keeping, and the protection of this information is a serious concern. But it’s the newer, more robust level of data sharing involved in “smart farming” technologies that has cyber security analysts anxious and has even caused federal agencies to take action.

Smart farming encompasses a broad range of technologies that enhance the precision of farming operations through various information-sharing capabilities. Satellite-guided tractors and crop management programs that operate on farming data sharing are just two examples of this quickly growing field.

Smart farming can benefit farms of all sizes. The problem, however, is that the companies developing these technologies — and, thus, holding large repositories of clients’ data — are new to this type of business model, and they have limited experience in data security.

In April of this year, the FBI published a bulletin warning farmers that smart farming technologies may draw more interest from hackers. Additionally, cybersecurity analysts have published speculations that foreign hackers may be planning to mine the agribusiness sector for intellectual properties behind U.S. farming. The National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College even weighed in to explain how a failure on the cybersecurity front could even damage America’s food supply.

Clearly, agribusiness in general, and vendors of smart-farming solutions in particular, need to move quickly to enhance any defense protecting client data and their own intellectual properties. And while the goal may be to develop internal cyber security programs over time, partnering with cyber experts will help these firms more quickly get their bearings.

Whether it’s support for building a cybersecurity governance plan or a full-scale managed security service leveraging our state-of the-art SOC, Lunarline has the expertise and tailored solutions that agribusiness vendors need for the current challenge. For information about our services, you can reach one of our security experts online today or visit our website to get a better understanding of our solutions.

This is the third article in a three-part series on agriculture and cyber security.

About Spence Witten

Spence has somehow survived ten years at start-ups and small businesses without suffering a (major) nervous breakdown. As Lunarline's Director of Federal Sales, Spence actually loves working on proposals. If there were any doubt, this is proof that he is in fact certifiably insane. While his title says "Sales" Lunarline doesn't let him off that easy. We make him do real work, too. Luckily he's a recognized subject matter expert in security policy and loves helping clients navigate their way around tricky security compliance standards. He's also been known to lead a software development initiative or two, though that pretty much always ends poorly for everyone involved. He can be reached at spence.witten@lunarline.com.