The FBI is warning about increased cyber attacks on agricultural cooperatives, saying that hackers could target large-scale farms and potentially impact the world’s food supply.
The Cyber Division of the top US law enforcement agency issued a notice to private industry earlier this week, pointing to a growing number of ransomware attacks on farming co-ops throughout the autumn harvest in 2021 and the early months of 2022.
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The notice said:“Ransomware actors may be more likely to attack agricultural cooperatives during critical planting and harvest seasons, disrupting operations, causing financial loss, and negatively impacting the food supply chain,” adding that such breaches could affect the planting season “by disrupting the supply of seeds and fertilizer.”
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The UK government has also warned that food supply organisations are in the sights of malicious actors in cyberspace.
RT reports: The bureau went on to cite several recent cases, including a month-long period late last year in which six major grain cooperatives were hit with a variety of ransomware attacks, as well as a “multi-state grain company” which experienced a similar hack in March. It noted the widespread effects such attacks could have on the global food supply given the importance of grain for both people and livestock.
“A significant disruption of grain production could impact the entire food chain, since grain is not only consumed by humans but also used for animal feed,” it said. “In addition, a significant disruption of grain and corn production could impact commodities trading and stocks.”
Ransomware is a form of malicious software used to encrypt and block access to a victim’s data until a ‘ransom’ is paid to the attackers, who often threaten to publish or destroy files if no payment is made.
The FBI warning comes amid concerns of food shortages in some regions due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, a major agricultural exporter. Russia, which sent troops into the neighboring state earlier this year, is also a significant exporter of wheat and other staple crops, with the two nations commonly described as regional ‘breadbaskets’. A flurry of Western economic sanctions on Moscow is likely to worsen the problem, moreover, as a growing number of banking and financial restrictions create new barriers for world trade.