As ag technology evolves to include more machine learning and automated functions, the threat of data theft and other cyber crimes is increasing.

Taking a deeper look into what farmers, dealers and manufacturers need to be wary of, the Department of Homeland Security (or DHS) recently released its “Threats to Precision Agriculture Report.” The study uncovered a series of cyber-based threats unique to precision agriculture and categorized them into three categories: Threats to Confidentiality, Threats to Integrity and Threats to Availability.

Unique Threats to Confidentiality include the intentional theft or unintentional leakage of data, the intentional publishing of confidential information, foreign access to unmanned aerial system data and the dishonest selling of data.

Unique Threats to Integrity, which center on the increased adoption of equipment automation, robotics and machine learning, include falsification of data to disrupt crops or livestock, the introduction of rogue data into sensor networks and insufficiently vetted machine learning modeling.

Unique Threats to Availability refer to the untimeliness of machinery losses due to cyber intervention. Examples include disruption to navigation systems, disruption to foreign supply chains to access machinery and the failure of smart livestock production facilities.

To combat the various threats, the DHS emphasized the use of security controls commonly used in other industries. Derived from the Center for Internet Security, key examples include:

  • The implementation of e-mail and web browser protections to reduce attack risk
  • The limitation of control network ports, protocols and services to only authenticated or authorized systems
  • The separation of operational technologies and business operations, which mitigates the risk to machinery.

More information on precision ag cyber threats and solutions — in addition to the complete DHS report with detailed cyber threat scenarios — can be found on the recently launched Ag Equipment Intelligence Website.