FBI Agriculture Warning: Ransomware Gangs are Targeting The Unexpected Victims
- Timing is everything; ransomware gangs understand how to exploit this to deploy attacks and demand ransom payments from agriculture businesses.
- The FBI is warning about the spike in ransomware attacks targeting agriculture businesses because they rely on automated systems.
- Ransomware gangs target systems agriculture businesses use to prevent users from accessing their data and disrupting the supply chain.
- The attackers will then ask for ransomware to restore access to the data.
- Since agriculture businesses — especially those dealing with fresh food — cannot wait any longer to harvest, they’re more likely to pay the ransom quickly, making them a lucrative target.
The FBI has warned farming and agriculture businesses to prepare for increased ransomware attacks during critical times such as spring harvesting and planting.
The FBI report says that ransomware gangs identify farming and agriculture businesses as lucrative victims because the targets are more willing to pay for decryption keys due to the time-sensitive nature of their business.
The attacks on agricultural businesses can disrupt the food supply and impact planting and harvesting to cause financial damage to farmers.
Several Agricultural Businesses Have Fallen Victims to Ransomware Attacks
Several agriculture businesses have been victims of ransomware attacks during critical times such as autumn harvesting and spring planting. The FBI report lists six ransomware attacks they recorded against several agricultural cooperatives during the 2021 harvest and two more in early 2022.
The 2021 attacks happened between September and October and involved several ransomware variants such as:
- Sodinokibi (REvil)
Several victims of the ransomware attacks had to pause production. The FBI does not say if any of the victims paid the ransom.
In March 2022, ransomware gangs launched a Lock bit 2.0 attack against a multi-state grain company. The attack disrupted grain processing and the supply chain relating to the delivery of fertilizer, seeds, and logistics services.
The FBI reports that in February 2022, a feed milling supply company said unauthorized intrusion into their network in an attempt to launch a ransomware attack. The company stopped the attempt before the attacker caused damage.
Ransomware Attacks Against The Agriculture Industry Spike With Season
While ransomware attacks against the agriculture business are common, many incidents occur during key seasons. The attackers are opportunistic — they’ll wait until the victim is most vulnerable and likely to pay the ransom as soon as it happens.
Ransomware gangs understand correctly that during some seasons, an agriculture company can’t afford to slow the supply chain and would pay the ransom because they want to return to work immediately.
The FBI has warned that the chatter they’re monitoring indicates that ransomware gangs will actively target agriculture companies across the country. The U.S. justice insists that the attackers focus more on fresh food categories because they know those are the most vulnerable.
How Companies Can Avoid Ransomware
Agricultural companies hit by ransomware go down for quite a while, causing many supply chain issues and costing them some contracts. The victim’s customers move on to competitors, never to come back.
Many agriculture companies are taking their protection seriously — proactively ensuring their systems are protected in the best way possible. Interestingly, customers dealing with agricultural companies like Walmart and Costco are mandating many cybersecurity measures to ensure their supply chain isn’t at risk.
Some steps an organization can take to prevent ransomware attacks include:
1. Leveraging Layered Security to Defend Your Network
To lower the risk of ransomware attacks, you should utilize layered security. Layered security means using different security systems with multiple components to protect your system on various levels.
Your business can use multiple security tools such as:
- Anti-malware software
- Spam filters
- Antivirus software
- Cloud data loss prevention.
Using a combination of tools is excellent because if one fails to protect you from ransomware, you have other measures to ensure no compromises.
2. Creating a Living Firewall Through Cybersecurity Training
Educating and training employees and stakeholders about cybersecurity help reduce breaches that target insiders, such as phishing. Training your employees and shareholders in your organization creates a human firewall.
Security should reside across all your organization. Training and instilling the right culture are the critical elements of a successful defense against cyber attacks. Your organization’s security is not just about the immediate IT team — it’s about how strong and resilient the people handling your technology are.
3. Configuring Access Controls
You need to manage people accessing your information in your business. You need to give minimal access to accounts, files, and programs to those who need it. You need to create role-based access because not everyone needs data access in your company. It would be best to create access control depending on departments and roles.
4. Doing Software and System Update
Updates are critical in keeping ransomware gangs away from your business. Nearly all are preventable if people could have active patches in their systems. Updating your system fixes vulnerabilities and bugs that hackers exploit to access your organization’s computers remotely. Your organization must check and make regular system updates.
5. Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication
Multifactor authentication is a vital part of the defense against ransomware attacks. However, many businesses hold off deploying MFA in excuse of inconvenience. It would be best if you overlooked the minor inconvenience because MFA adds a roadblock to ransomware attempts and prompts them to look elsewhere.
6. Enabling Strong Spam Filters
Using email spam filters is excellent in protecting everyone in your organization from falling prey to phishing. You can flag messages with malicious links or attachments with an email filtering system. More importantly, email filtering can scan for malicious code in documents, executable files, and zip files before anyone in your organization can open them.
Many Small Businesses Assume They Can’t Be a Target
The more prominent companies are taking all measures possible to protect themselves. The problem is that smaller companies still consider cybersecurity an expense rather than an investment.
The spike in ransomware attacks in the agriculture industry should serve as a warning to small businesses and should step up their protection.
Alvarez Technology Can Help Your Business Protect Against Ransomware Attacks
Your business security isn’t a joke. You deserve the best protection against ransomware attacks. At Alvarez Technology, we combine a range of leading security solutions with proactive monitoring to ensure ransomware cannot jeopardize businesses financially or damage their reputation.
Regardless of your business size, we can help your organization protect itself against cyber threats. Contact us today to set a perimeter of your defense.