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Having your trade secrets hacked is never a good thing, but there are certain areas within the U.S. economy where a hacked trade secret could lead way to an absolute disaster.
One of those industries that many people don’t typically associate with highly sophisticated technology: agriculture.
Nonetheless, the ag industry is currently a top concern in international cyber defense.
Cyber espionage focusing on economic advantage has been increasing in the past few years. The FBI in March 2015 reported an annual increase of 53 percent in this type of activity. Agriculture companies of all sizes are increasingly finding themselves the target of cyber criminals looking for information to give them a competitive edge. New technologies, such as network-connected precision agriculture tools, are bringing along new opportunities for a cyber breach, and the FBI recently warned U.S. farmers to take precautions against such incidents.
Of course, the kind of trade secrets that agriculture companies maintain could tempt a host of cyber criminals with a variety of motives. However, an especially pressing concern is the threat from foreign hackers hoping to use stolen intellectual property for their own nations’ advantage.
When a foreign hacker successfully obtains, for example, the formula for a more productive patented seed, it is not only the seed’s manufacturer that suffers consequences. The company’s country of origin may begin to see its competitive advantage in agriculture diminish. As the manufacturer loses revenue to foreign imitations, its capability to continue innovating declines. Meanwhile, farmers lose income to foreign producers who are now able to grow crops more efficiently.
Indeed, foreign cyber espionage on farms and agricultural product manufacturers has potential to damage the entire nation’s economy. So it’s critical that these companies be vigilant in their attempts to combat cyber threats.
For many, this will mean an audit of the current network landscape for vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit. That analysis can allow an organization to begin making changes and enhancements to its security policies and procedures. The method for keeping cyber pests out of the data crops will become much more clear.
This is the second article in a three-part series on agriculture and cyber security.