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Security, Are You Looking in the Right Place?

For most of the last two years the national news outlets have been broadcasting the risk of our nation’s voting integrity. Cybersecurity threats, foreign intervention and vote counting malfunction are just a handful of the issues we hear every day regarding our interconnected voting system. While the nation’s voting security may not be something you are directly responsible for, you may be overlooking a security element within your own farm operation that you are directly responsible for, your precision farming equipment.


Is precision farming vulnerable?

The Department of Homeland Security (www.dhs.gov) provides a paper entitled “Threats to Precision Agriculture” by the 2018 Public-Private Analytic Exchange Program. Experts participating in this paper are listed on page 1 of their document and include:

  • USDA, Office of Homeland Security

  • DHS, Science and Technology Directorate

  • CHS Inc.

  • FBI Louisville Division

  • USDA, APHIS, Biotechnology Regulatory Service

  • and others


Their opening paragraph states: “Threats to Precision Agriculture addresses the security threats related to the adoption and impact of new digital technologies in crop and livestock production. A consequence of this rapidly advancing digital revolution is the increased exposure to cyber and other vulnerabilities to the agricultural sector.”


So, is your precision farming (grain and livestock) technology vulnerable? According to this report the answer is, it could be. Security threats range from calibration abnormalities that cause seed planter issues to raw data insertion into applications leading to supply chain disruption in the grain and livestock sectors. In other words, it would cause problems to the food supply.


What can a farmer do?

One of the paper’s key findings stated, “Most of the information management/cyber threats facing precision agriculture’s embedded and digital tools are consistent with threat vectors in all other connected industries.” Other industries are facing very similar threats, so this is where your farm operation draws from other industry’s cyber security efforts.


Take the extra step to understand how your precision farming suppliers are addressing security threats to their systems (and your farm operation). Don’t assume that all vendors have dealt with security adequately, it takes inspection of your vendors, just like the Fortune 500 companies do to protect themselves. The document points towards the following threats:

· Threats to Confidentiality

· Threats to Integrity

· Threats to Availability


The document provides the farmer with several sound technology steps to assist with security (see page 7 of the document) by leveraging other industry sectors. There were three that jumped off the paper in terms of impact to a farm operation:

  • “Separate Operational Technologies and Business Operations”

Just like your Fortune 500 counterparts, sound business and operational practices that have a separation or ‘wall’ between them can limit the damage from security issues.

  • “Understanding Data Ownership”

Precision farming took your data and put it in the hands of numerous individuals and companies that you may not even be aware. Understanding where your data is and who owns it is key to mitigating security threats.

  • “Incident Response and Management”

Developing a plan if something were to happen will reduce the amount of time (and money) when your operation could be at risk.


Next Steps

Work this issue just like you did to understand genetic traits, herbicide use or even your own balance sheet. Meet with the experts and put together a plan for your operation. You need to decide who those experts are and team with them for the security of your future.


  • Some accounting firms are developing a security practice for their clients, just make sure they have the connections and understanding of agriculture and precision farming equipment.

  • Precision farming equipment manufacturers could be a selection, ensure that they have your best interest in mind and not just an opportunity to sell more equipment.

  • Independent security entities may be a partner for you, ensure they have the right credentials and a focus on precision farming.

  • Contact your COOP as they may have developed a precision farming security expertise.

There is a great opportunity to improve your bottom line with precision farming. Take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of cyber security threats to your operation due to precision agriculture technology. Don’t be the business mentioned on the next news cycle that was hit by cyber intrusion.


All content provided is for informational purposes only. The writer of this article makes no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of any information provided or found by following any link in this article.

    © 2020 by Farmers First Trust Company DST

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