Safeguarding the Ag Industry Against Cyber Threats

by | Dec 21, 2023 | Security

A Comprehensive Approach to Cybersecurity

Implementing tech in the ag industry has significantly increased productivity in the field, on the plant floor, and within the logistic chain. This heightened efficiency enables producers to better feed the nation and positions them to contribute to global food security solutions. In a recent episode of the Tip of the Iceberg podcast, Eric Regnier, ZAG’s VP of Operations, emphasized the critical need for the agricultural sector to acknowledge and address the cybersecurity challenges that accompany tech advancements.

Sophisticated Tech = More Risk

Regnier aptly points out, “While we work to make computers more ingrained into every aspect of our daily life, we always have to be mindful of the increased attack surface that this represents to nefarious actors that want to exploit them.” Every technological benefit potentially presents an exploitable vulnerability, making cybersecurity awareness paramount.

For the agricultural industry, this heightened attack surface poses a significant threat. Nefarious actors target edge devices and exploit security gaps to access the network more broadly. The reality is stark: the attackers are well-resourced, well-organized, and only need to succeed once.

“We have to take this threat seriously because these folks are the real deal,” he said. “These are the pros and they’re not coming for someone else they’re coming for us.”

Cybercriminals are indiscriminate in their targets. Everyone is equally at risk, whether a small farm or a major industry player. The question then becomes, how can the ag industry prioritize technology and cybersecurity to protect their businesses, employees, and their mission to feed the nation?

The Offensive Play

Regnier proposes a comprehensive offense that acknowledges the need for a strong defense, emphasizing two key elements:

1. Organizational Commitment to Layered Security Model

Adopting a layered cybersecurity model involves integrating all aspects of your organization—people, processes, and technology—into a cohesive system that works collaboratively to keep your systems secure. It’s not just about the technology you use but the collective strength of your entire organizational ecosystem. Every asset is a potential risk, extending beyond your operations to the operations of your supporting partners and vendors. Executives and IT leadership must be willing to address security with anyone with access to your networks.

2. Robust Incident Response Plan

A robust incident response plan is crucial if we acknowledge the inevitability of breaches. This plan should minimize the impact of a security incident and avoid perpetuating the activity by refusing to pay perpetrators. Being prepared is as vital as prevention.

The Bright Side

Continuous improvement is already an industry standard. Melinda Goodman, from FullTilt Marketing, highlights the ag industry’s resilience in adopting continuous improvement for food safety and sustainability. She suggests applying the same attitude to developing cybersecurity systems can lead to successful security solutions.

Through our Technology Risk Assessment service, ZAG stands ready to assist the agricultural community in safeguarding operations. If we collectively prepare and defend, we can ensure the resilience of the nation’s food supply chain against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

Listen to the Podcast

For more insights and a deeper dive into Eric’s journey from spending summers on the family farm to spending months underwater to becoming ZAG’s VP of Operations, tune in to hear the full interview.

We launched an informative 12-episode podcast series talking all things ag tech, from new tech applied to organic fruit to ZAG’s security, AI, robotics, and everything in between. We will be joined each episode by a respected thought leader in the industry to share their knowledge and learnings with all of us. Join us as we uncover how technology reshapes the agricultural landscape and drives farming practices.

Related Content