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June 14, 2022

Cyber risk is more prevalent than ever in agriculture. Are you prepared?

Cyber security is an urban problem, isn’t it? Aren’t rural areas far less susceptible to cyber attacks? In fact, a large problem facing rural communities is the lack of broadband access. So, why would agriculture be a target for cyber criminals? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is simpler than you may think. As the agricultural industry relies more and more on internet-enabled technologies to bring its operations into the digital age, this conversely increases the risk of a cyber incident occurring. While farming in the digital age certainly has its very compelling advantages, it’s critical to understand where your vulnerabilities are and how to address them as the industry continues to become more reliant on the internet.   

Across the entire cyber landscape, ransomware attacks have proven extremely damaging for a wide variety of organizations. Unfortunately, ransomware attacks can be stunningly straightforward—an attack could be as simple as an untrained employee accidentally entering credentials into a phishing pop-up or opening a malicious email attachment. This could cause a ripple effect that could severely interrupt business for hours, days or even weeks. Most critically, ransomware attacks have a profound effect on not only your business but also your entire complex supply chain and even the industry at large. 

In May 2021, a cyber attack used a variant of the Sodinokibi/REvil ransomware to compromise computer networks in the U.S. and overseas locations of a global meat processing company. This resulted in the possible exfiltration of company data and the shutdown of some U.S.-based plants for several days. The temporary shutdown caused a shortage in the U.S. meat supply and drove wholesale meat prices up as much as 25%, according to open-source reports. 

Unfortunately, incidents such as this are far from isolated. With that being the case, it’s more than fair to ask: why target agriculture? 

The answer as to “why” is almost frustratingly simple—the agriculture industry is a highly lucrative target. Cyber criminals can earn a significant profit exploiting the industry because of its foundational importance in our economy, the value of new bio-automation techniques, and the desperation companies could face when business-critical data is held hostage. 

Distressingly, cyber risks are also quite varied. Business interruption is an obvious key risk, but others such as the loss of third-party data or of valuable proprietary data can also have a catastrophic effect on your business. In fact, The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB) calculates that the average breach cost nearly $4 million across all sectors.

To help plan for and mitigate the risk of a cyber attack, cyber insurance can serve as a means of protection on both the back-end to help cover the costs of a breach and also on the front end. Outside consultants can also help bolster cyber security and work with employees to help raise awareness of vulnerabilities and the importance of good cybersecurity practices.

Thankfully, that’s where we come in. Marsh McLennan Agency can design insurance coverage that provides protection for loss and liability stemming from the use of technology and data in the agricultural industry. We take a comprehensive approach to helping you manage cyber risk, taking your entire enterprise—operations, compliance, legal, finance, communications, and IT—into consideration. After all, everyone in your company has a stake in keeping corporate data and customer information as secure as possible.

So, is your company prepared for potential cyber risks? The most recent MMA Cyber Survey showed that 56% of all respondents ranked cyber security as a top five risk management priority, down from the last survey. 80% were confident in their organization’s ability to manage and respond to a cyber event, which is a significant increase from the last survey. 82% believe they are prepared to prevent such an attack—yet only 45% of respondents said they actually had a plan in place. Where does your organization fall?

Regardless, arming yourself with knowledge can be the first step in protecting yourself against cyber attacks. For starters, we’d recommend reading the full version of this blog, as well as visiting our cyber hub.

Don’t stop there, though. Information is great, but action can be even better. Reach out to us today to find out how we can help you and your organization be better prepared for whatever cyber incidents may occur.