Controlling a remote Octocopter drone

Controlling a remote Octocopter drone. Drone flight remote controller in man hands. Agriculture drone flies over the green field.

When people think of technology and businesses, they think of large corporations and bankers.

But what about farmers?

The average American might not expect to see advanced technology being implemented on a farm in the rural area of town, but farms have not only adapted to this new wave of technology, they are using it every day.

According to the 2017 USDA report on Farm Computer Usage and Ownership, nationally, 73 percent of farms have access to a computer with 74 percent of California farmers actually owning or leasing a computer. Of those California farmers, 64 percent use the computer for farming business.

With all the new technological advances being made, those new opportunities have also created new threats.

Cybercrimes have ramped up recently and cyber criminals will target almost any sector they can get their hands on. These types of crimes are easy to commit, but hard to detect, leaving businesses vulnerable to the slightest hack.

Whenever you use technology to create value, cybercriminals will be there to exploit it for their own financial gain. These types of hacks can come from something as simple as a phishing email to something more advanced like a full system hack.

According to Ponemon’s 2016 Cost of Cyber Crime Study & the Risk of Business Innovation report, cybercrimes cost the agriculture industry roughly $2.77 million annually.

This is why individuals who work in the fields need to be fully aware of the potential threats against them.

Farmers, like every other small-business owner, may use their home office computer as the computer for farming purposes. That same computer that has personal social media sites logged in may be used to complete orders, USDA forms, taxes and so on making that computer more vulnerable to an attack.

If that computer was hacked, not only would the hacker have access to personal social media sites, but they would also have access to those forms and other sensitive documents.

Thieves can also create fraudulent documents based upon the information they discovered in the computer hack and pose as a trusted vendor to steal goods and merchandise.

Not only can a hack happen that way, but an untrained employee or a new employee may receive a phishing email requesting funds or information relating to an order. They may not know the specific vendor used for service, or they may not be educated on phishing emails, and that one mistake can cost the company their reputation, funds or worse — employees’ identities.

On top of protection from computer hacks and phishing emails, farmers need to worry about their newly implemented IoT devices that help make farming better and more sustainable. IoT devices are a network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity and the communication that occurs between these objects and the other internet-enabled devices and systems.

Farmers use moisture sensors, drones, smart irrigation, GPS-enabled tractors, devices that inform farmers on how much fertilizer to use and so on. All these IoT-enabled devices help the farmers become more efficient and profitable.

Farmers can’t be profitable if they fall victim to a hack, which is why they need to educate staff members on the dangers of a cyberhack and the ways to prevent one from happening to them.

According to the 2017 BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, 17 percent of all scams where a monetary loss occurred were through email and 71 percent of all 25- to 54-year-olds were scammed through online means of contact (email, social media, etc.).

Phishing emails have been around for years, but the reason so many people fall victim is simply because they are not paying attention.

Business owners need to educate their employees to read all emails carefully and look for common signs the email is fake — misspellings, generic greetings, etc. Employees should also carefully inspect all email requests for fund transfers, payments, sensitive information, etc. to determine if the email is legitimate or not.

They can hover their mouse over the name or click “reply” to ensure that email address is actually from someone in your office, a part of your company, a vendor, etc. If they are pressed to take action quickly, they should proceed with caution. Business owners should also tell their employees to forward any suspicious emails to their direct supervisor or owner to verify the legitimacy of the email.

Farmers who are looking into purchasing IoT devices or those who already are implementing them need to be aware of the different ways to protect them. They should purchase IoT devices from a vendor that has security in mind. Make sure the devices release regular updates and continually push certificates and security updates to keep the protection up-to-date at all times.

They should make sure the IoT devices aren’t being shared with employees and are only being connected to the work network. Consulting with a third-party network consultant or security expert for ways on how to protect from a cyber-attack is also recommended.

Learning about new ways to protect yourself and continually keeping up with the latest scams, along with keeping an open dialogue with employees, can help ensure that you don’t lose everything to a cyberattack.

Kayleena Speakman is a communications specialist for Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties.

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