When our Head of Cyber and Innovation, Paul Hall recently visited the Welsh farming community he was able to speak directly with farmers to get a better understanding of how they feel about not only the shift in developing technologies but also of the impact this brings – such as vulnerabilities to cybercrime. We put to him a few questions about his experience ‘down on the farm’.
And this is what he said…
From your own experience speaking with the farming community, how good is the overall awareness of cyber security and the understanding of its importance?
Whilst engaging with the farming community in Wales I found there to be a general consensus that they have been forced into using technology and this has made some feel vulnerable to cybercrime.
It’s important that farmers look at their growing exposure to cyber risks and how best to protect themselves. Some have already identified what the threats are and have implemented necessary security measures to protect themselves, but sadly there are others who don’t take it so seriously.
One farmer said to me: “Why would a farmer in Wales be targeted, it won’t impact on me”. This is why it’s important to raise awareness that unfortunately EVERYONE is a potential target, however, by taking some straightforward steps it can prevent them from becoming victims of a cyberattack. The first step to protecting themselves is understanding the risk and how they will be targeted.
With the increase in better technology in the industry, does the farming community believe they are becoming easier targets for cybercriminals?
There has been a lot of technical advancements in the industry and that has brought more exposure of to cybercrime to them. As the industry relies more on these technologies such as GPS, remote sensing and unmanned vehicles, the risk increases. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and finding new ways to exploit and identify vulnerabilities in this particular community. The new methods of working have taken some farmers out of their comfort zone and have described to me that they do feel in a much more exposed position.
Farming is a very multi-generational industry, have you noticed any differences in the way cyber security is perceived across age brackets?
There are a lot of young people who have recently joined the industry, however the majority I have engaged with are over the age of 60. A lot of these farmers have not been brought up with technology and have been exposed to it in later life. Some have fully embraced it however others have been more reluctant and tried to remain with traditional methods. The latter sadly don’t completely understand the full implications of technology and the risk of cybercrime, so it has resulted in some feeling terrified while others are totally oblivious to it. Those that fall into this last category are the individuals who don’t perceive cyber security as an integral part of their farming operations.
What recommendations would you make in regards to building the awareness of cyber security across the industry?
Firstly, it is for people in the industry to acknowledge they will be targeted by cybercriminals. It is a hurdle that some will need to overcome and introducing cyber security measures to prevent them from becoming a victim in the future.
It is important that the farmer analyses the digital aspect of the farming operations in terms of their IT and other computerised equipment. This means everything from the computer where they do their emails to the automated machinery, security cameras and smart phones which help them run their farm. The main areas to focus on are:
· Identifying phishing emails
· Device security
· Strong passwords
· Two-factor authentication
· Data backup
How can we make it easier for farmers to access cyber security services?
The Cyber Resilience Centre for Wales offers free core membership, the membership includes an introduction pack which explains how a business can implement cyber security into their organisation. Each month members receive a newsletter which will update them on new trends of cybercrime and how to protect themselves from the new method.
The Cyber Resilience Centre for Wales is here to support regional Welsh businesses across all sectors and farming is no exception. If you’re a farmer looking for guidance on cyber security and would like to learn more about becoming a member or would like to sign up, you can speak to someone today about your own cyber security and concerns.