In June, global meatpacking giant JBS USA said it paid $11 million to hackers to stop a ransomware attack that occurred the month prior. That raised some alarms, of course — the last thing the meat industry needs is more disruption, as every livestock producers knows, writes Jenny Schlecht at AgWeek.
But JBS being the target of that kind of attack is not really all that surprising, on the surface. It’s a huge company. And huge companies tend to be easy targets. Everyone knows they exist, where they operate, why they operate. Their importance to the food chain, and thus the stability of the U.S., and in the JBS case, Australia, is pretty obvious. They were not the first nor last big company to be targeted by hackers.
It also was not all that surprising because experts had been raising concerns about the vulnerabilities of the ag and food industries for several years. That includes a 2019 report from the University of Minnesota that laid bare the possibilities of attacks on the industries.
“The food industry has some characteristics that make it uniquely vulnerable to cyberattacks on its processing and manufacturing systems,” said Stephen Streng, lead author on the report, when it came out. “Luckily, there’s still time for companies to protect themselves.”
It appears there may not be more time. Recently, a relatively small Iowa cooperative was hacked. If the alarms over cybersecurity in agriculture weren’t going off before, they certainly should be now. The cooperative, New Cooperative, is a member-owned association of Iowa corn and soybean farmers. If you’re an Iowa reader, maybe you’re a member. If you’re somewhere else in the region, there’s a good chance you’re a member of a cooperative that looks an awful lot like New Cooperative.