Cybercriminals know when to exploit and demand ransom payment from victims. It’s all about the timing.

The FBI are warning businesses such as farming and agriculture that they should prepare for an upsurge in ransomware attacks during their busy season. For instance, harvest or spring planting times.

In other words, due to the time-sensitive nature of farming and agriculture ransomware gangs see this as a perfect opportunity to strike while they’re busy. Of course, victims would be more likely to pay a ransom for a decryption key, warns the FBI, during the busy season.

These attacks can impact businesses enormously. For instance, it could potentially disrupt planting and harvesting operations, impact food supplies, and cause financial damage to farmers.

As a result of cybercriminals targeting the US agricultural and farming industries multiple ransomwares have been successful particularly during the autumn and spring planting seasons. In 2021 six attacks occurred against grainers in the autumn time while two attacks happen early 2022.

In just a space of a few weeks between September and October these attacks included the full ransomware variants including Conti, BlackMatterSuncrypt, Sodinokibi (REvil), and BlackByte. The alert didn’t mention if any victims paid the ransom but for some it halted production.

In addition, March this year there was a grain company that experienced a Lockbit 2.0 ransomware attack. Business was affected in numerous ways, namely grain processing, and delivery of seeds, fertilizer, and logistical aspects.

While a company supplying feed mill and other agricultural services detected and reported unauthorised intrusions into the network, back in February 2022 according to the FBI. It’s thought these could have been an attempt to deploy a ransomware attack. But no damage was done as the attempted incident was stopped in its tracks.

The FBI alert says that “although ransomware attacks against the entire farm-to-table spectrum of the food and agriculture sector occur on a regular basis, the number of cyberattacks against agricultural cooperatives during key seasons is notable.

That’s to say the FBI believe the cyber criminals will continue to exploit network, system, and application vulnerabilities within the farming and agricultural sectors.

However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure any business doesn’t fall victim to these attacks.

These include:

  • implementing network segmentation
  • installing security updates for operating systems
  • software and firmware as soon as they’re released
  • use multi-factor authentication whenever possible
  • strong passwords are applied to accounts
  • data is regularly backed up and stored offline
  • organisations should implement a recovery plan, so they know what to do if they do fall victim to a ransomware attack.

Keep in mind that any industry could be the next target for cybercriminals.

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