Aerial view of grain bins on a farm

Farms and agribusinesses are growing in size and sophistication. At the same time, ag markets and supply chains are relying more and more on digital systems that can be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Ransomware is one type of attack that can prove particularly costly — but there are ways you can help prevent ransomware attacks.

“Any industry that relies on a complicated supply chain or time-focused requirements to get products to consumers are going to be in the crosshairs for these criminal groups,” says Nationwide Senior Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer, Todd Lukens. “When a farm or company is growing fast, computer security programs can’t keep up. In many ways, ag businesses are perfect targets.”

Ransomware is a type of cyberattack when someone illegally gains access to your computer systems or files, then locks them down until you pay a ransom to restore access. Recovery can take a lot of time and money. Business interruption, recovery, restoring systems and paying the ransom itself are all potential ransomware costs to a farm or agribusiness. 

“These attacks have ramifications that last from days to weeks to months. Ransomware gives criminals the potential to make millions in a short amount of time,” adds Lukens. “Farms and agribusinesses are growing targets for these criminals.”

Andrew McCrea speaks with Nationwide about what farmers and commercial ag operations can do protect their operations from ransomware attacks.

Ways to prevent ransomware attacks on your farm or ag business

The best way to avoid an attack and its financial hit is to practice what Lukens calls “good cyber hygiene.” Keeping computer software up-to-date and ensuring you have security protocols in place on every device can help. Lukens also recommends:

  • Educating your team on all types of cyberattacks
  • Making sure no one can access computer systems or files on the internet
  • Utilizing a virtual private network (VPN) or secure connection for any internet-connected computer or server
  • Requiring multi-factor authentication for all employees
  • Creating a backup plan so files and other data are available if you are hit by ransomware or another type of cyberattack

See more ways to protect yourself from ransomware.

Insurance coverage and protection

There are cyber liability coverages and services to help protect you and your farm or agribusiness from loss from a ransomware or other cyberattack. That protection extends well beyond the attack itself.

“Cyberattack policies and endorsements may include coverage for liabilities associated with a data breach like ransom negotiation and payment,” said Nationwide Vice President for Cyber Insurance Catherine Rudow. “Policies can include business interruption loss while systems are down during an attack.”

Rudow recommends educating your farm or agribusiness workforce about cyberattacks like ransomware and how to best protect yourself. This can also help you identify the right coverage options.

“If you live in an area prone to severe storms, would you go without property insurance?” Rudow said. “The more we rely on computer systems to conduct our business, the more impactful they are when they go down. So, we have to protect them.”

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