The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has issued its first ever guidance for farmers, in a sign of the growing cyber-threat facing rural businesses.
Published on Tuesday, Cybersecurity for Farmers is a comprehensive guide to best practices covering everything from spotting suspicious emails and phone calls to password management, device security and the importance of backing up.
The UK’s farms are increasingly run with the aid of technologies such as automated machinery, smart security cameras and back-office management and productivity software, the NCSC claimed.
National Farmers’ Union (NFU) deputy president, Stuart Roberts, warned that this makes the sector attractive to cyber-criminals.
“Cyber-attacks can be devastating for businesses and the individuals who are victims to fraudulent activity. It can affect agricultural businesses in a number of ways, including leaking of confidential data or financial losses,” he argued.
“As farms rely more on technologies such as GPS, remote sensing and unmanned vehicles, the risks increase. Cyber-criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and savvy, finding new ways to exploit us or find vulnerabilities in our technological security to steal passwords, money or data.”
The guide urges farmers to: regular patch any software, replaced/update operating systems and devices when they reach end-of-life, switch on password protection and use encryption tools to protect devices and ensure firewalls and anti-malware are on and up-to-date.
There was also advice for creating strong passwords and supplementing this with two-factor authentication, as well as anti-phishing, smishing and vishing tips.
“Technology plays a huge role in modern farming and offers many benefits that will help the industry to thrive in the 21st century,” said NCSC deputy director for economy and society, Sarah Lyons.
“We are teaming up with the NFU to share best online practice to the sector, as an increased use of technology also sees an increased risk of being targeted by cyber-criminals.”