FBI: Ransomware Targeting Food & Agriculture Sector

Ransomware targeting agriculture and food businesses

Written by: Jay H.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned that cybercriminals are targeting the food and agriculture sector with ransomware attacks.

According to the notification, threat actors are turning their attention to the food and agriculture industry because of its increasing reliance on smart tech. These attacks are disrupting operations, causing financial loss, and negatively impacting the food supply chain. As previous events have demonstrated, ransomware incidents can devastate more than just the targeted business, like the Colonial Pipeline attack that distributed operations in the US!

These ransomware attacks can impact businesses all across the sector,  from small farms to large producers, processors and manufacturers, and markets and restaurants.

Attackers Exploiting Vulnerabilities

Attackers are taking advantage of network vulnerabilities to steal data and encrypt systems. Since most agribusinesses depend on smart technologies, industrial control systems, and internet-based automation systems, there is a large attack surface.

Victim businesses experience a significant financial loss resulting from ransom payments, loss of productivity, and remediation costs. Not only that, but many also suffer the loss of proprietary information and personally identifiable information and may endure reputational damage.

“Larger businesses are targeted based on their perceived ability to pay higher ransom demands, while smaller entities may be seen as soft targets, particularly those in the earlier stages of digitizing their processes,” said the FBI.

Ransomware Impact Growing

From 2019 to 2020, the average ransom payment doubled and the average cyber insurance payout increased 65 percent. Separate studies have also shown that between 50-80 percent of victims that paid the ransom experienced another ransomware attack, either by the same or different actors. The most common methods cybercriminals used to distribute ransomware are email phishing campaigns, Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP) vulnerabilities, and software vulnerabilities. This highlights the importance of cybersecurity awareness training and also software patch management. Without them, your business is at extreme risk of a disastrous cyber attack!

Recommended Mitigations

Ransomware actors will continue to target businesses in the food and agriculture industry and elsewhere. To mitigate your organization’s risk, the FBI provided the following recommendations:

  • Regularly back up data, air gap, and password-protect backup copies offline. Ensure copies of
    critical data are not accessible for modification or deletion from the system where the data
  • Implement network segmentation.
  • Implement a recovery plan to maintain and retain multiple copies of sensitive or proprietary data
    and servers in a physically separate, segmented, secure location (i.e., hard drive, storage device,
    the cloud).
  • Install updates/patch operating systems, software, and firmware as soon as they are released.
  • Use multifactor authentication with strong passphrases where possible.
  • Use strong passwords and regularly change passwords to network systems and accounts, implementing the shortest acceptable timeframe for password changes. Avoid reusing passwords for multiple accounts.
  • Disable unused remote access/RDP ports and monitor remote access/RDP logs.
  • Require administrator credentials to install software.
  • Audit user accounts with administrative privileges and configures access controls with least privilege in mind.
  • Install and regularly update anti-virus and anti-malware software on all hosts.
  • Only use secure networks and avoid using public Wi-Fi networks. Consider installing and using a VPN.
  • Consider adding an email banner to messages coming from outside your organizations.
  • Disable hyperlinks in received emails.
  • Focus on cyber security awareness and training. Regularly provide users with training on information security principles and techniques as well as overall emerging cybersecurity risks and
    vulnerabilities (i.e. ransomware and phishing scams).

Reduce Your Organization’s Risk

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for new organizations and vulnerabilities to exploit, and combating them is exhausting and difficult. That’s why many organizations depend on an IT support managed service provider like Design2Web IT to protect them from cybercriminals and keep them safe. Contact us today to learn more about our cybersecurity services.

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