Could You Be Held Ransom? 

Beverly Written by Beverly Leavitt April 24, 2023 Stolen Equipment

Computer code on a screen.

It’s unlikely that you or one of your staff members could be held for ransom. The whole idea sounds a little ludicrous and a bit like the plot of a new Netflix series–you’re not a high-ranking politician or next in line to inherit billions. 

But what about your company or your customers? 

Nowadays, criminals don’t have to rely on the old “stick-em-up” robbery or kidnapping to secure their loot. Instead, they can hack your systems. As farm and farmstead equipment becomes increasingly tech-heavy, the threat becomes even more real. 

So how do you protect yourself and educate your customers to protect themselves? 

Know the Threat 

Your dealership is a major player in Canada’s food chain. It’s not unreasonable to think that if there were an attack on Canada, foreign parties might target our food supply, which could have detrimental effects on our population. 

All of this can happen with a few keystrokes and the click of a button. 

While not all businesses and farms are cash-fluid, the hackers don’t necessarily know nor care. They’ll expect payment one way or another before relinquishing control over the systems. 

They could also attack at a manufacturer, dealership, or farmer level. Each scenario presents its own challenges. For instance, if the manufacturer’s system were the target, it could bring down an entire fleet of machinery nationwide. At the same time, an individual farmer would only see a direct impact on their land or livestock. 

Take Steps to Protect Yourself and Your Customers

Most new machinery is hooked into your internet lines, which is how hackers access your systems. There are steps you can take to protect your business and last-resort tools that will help you regain control if someone successfully gains access. 

Phishing and Malware

Ensure that you only open emails from senders you know. Avoid clicking links and downloading attachments because hackers can gain access to your banking or shut down your entire operation this way. 

Backups 

Keep a backup of your records on a local drive. Your backup drive should be inaccessible by the internet, so if your system were hacked, you can look back and access your records. 

Offer the same advice to your customers so they can tell which cows have been milked and what routes their tractors have already covered. 

Passwords 

Implement a password strategy whereby everyone with access to your system has to update their password every 90-120 days. The passwords should have mandatory security strengths (number, lower and upper case letters, and symbols) and require multi-authentication. 

Keep Business and Personal Separate

It may be an affordable choice to keep your personal networks intertwined with work networks, but it can open more doors to your system, especially for your customers who operate a home-based farm. 

The stakes can be a lot lower personally than they are for your business! 

Perform a Threat Risk Assessment 

A threat risk assessment outlines all of your vulnerabilities, and a plan of action should any piece become compromised. 

Take inventory of all your online equipment and who has access to them, and schedule regular maintenance and check-ins. Oftentimes, out-of-date software can offer the perfect entry point for hackers. 

Invest in Insurance 

If you haven’t already discussed cybersecurity with your insurance company, now’s the time! 

They should have specialized policies that will pay ransomware if your safeguarding fails and your business falls victim to an attack. 

This is a last resort but can keep your business off the hook for a substantial ransom if you cannot regain control of your systems in any other way. 

Keep it Simple and Outsource

While we can point out risk areas, hiring an IT consultant to review your system is a much better way to get personalized tips to protect your information. 

We understand that some of these tips may seem easier said than done, but with the level of risk you face, it’s worth consulting experts to set your system up for success.