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Cyberattacks against farms can worsen the impending food crisis. Step up now!

A,Child,With,The,Flag,Of,Ukraine,Is,Crying.,Sadness
As Russian forces step up their invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials are now struggling to keep the country from sliding into a deeper crisis.  

Russia’s military is now encroaching on Ukraine’s wheat fields, which could threaten the country’s harvest and supplies to several countries across the world. Although the prices of commodities such as wheat and corn are global, they’re inequity. Richer countries can easily absorb the higher prices, while those in poorer countries are now struggling to eat. The current crisis has already contributed to the rising cost of food. In fact, estimates indicate that the UN needs to provide emergency assistance to a record 137 million people due to this crisis. 

The U.S. government is already working with international organizations to address the food shortages caused by the conflict. However, after the Senate voted on a 40 billion emergency aid package for Ukraine and other countries affected by the crisis, many members of the legislature now have little appetite for further funding. 

The Biden administration is also relying on local producers to help fill the gap. However, factors such as the timing of the harvest and the rising cost of inputs are limiting the amount of food that the U.S. can provide. 

Something that needs to be understood is that, together, Russia and Ukraine provide over 30% of the world’s wheat supply, just under 30% of the world’s barley supplies, about 15% of the global corn supply, and over 70% of the world’s sunflower oil. 

The shortage of fertilizer has also raised concerns about the impact of the crisis on the prices of basic food items. Russia and Belarus were the world’s biggest producers of potash, a key component of fertilizer. Due to the conflict, one of the companies in Belarus declared force majeure. On the other hand, Russia exports a significant portion of the world’s fertilizer, which includes both ammonium nitrate and urea. Disruptions of those shipments due to sanctions by several countries and war have sent fertilizer prices also skyrocketing. 

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war had worsened food insecurity in poorer nations due to rising prices. Some countries could face long-term famines if Ukraine’s exports are not restored to pre-war levels, he added. 

According to Mike Johanns, chairman of agriculture at alliantgroup, and Heidi Heitkamp, the director of agriculture at alliantgroup, “There has never been a clearer example of U.S. food security being critical to national security. It is crucial that we, as a nation, rally our resources to support agricultural production and step into our role as a worldwide food supplier.” 

In their column in Fortune, they also noted, “It is not an overstatement to say we’re in the early stages of a global food crisis, and that U.S. consumers will feel its ripple effect. The burden of solving this crisis will fall on the shoulders of the American farmer and rancher, and they will need help from the federal government to meet these challenges. Now is the time for the president and Congress to act. Farmers and ranchers need to use technology and innovation to adapt their operations–and Washington can truly be their partner in this effort.” 

Another key concern is the cybersecurity of the agriculture sector. Several farmers and cooperatives are yet to understand that even farms are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Several cyber-attacks point out that any malicious actor can tamper with the signals sent by sensors of farming equipment to disrupt farming operations. Even telecommunications companies that deal with farm-level data could also be targeted. This information could include the transfer of farm-level data and its analysis.  

Cyber-attack targeted at U.S. agriculture can worsen the already difficult situation. And it is highly likely that U.S. critical infrastructure will be targeted.  

Ever since the war began, the U.S. government has been on high alert for the possibility of the conflict spilling over into cyberspace. Russia has shown an ability to cause significant disruption and damage in the past.  

President Joe Biden also urged private sector partners and organizations in critical infrastructure including agriculture to harden their cyber defenses at once and implement the best practices.  

“ …the Federal Government can’t defend against this threat alone. Most of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and critical infrastructure owners and operators mU.S.t accelerate efforts to lock their digital doors,” said the President.  

As pointed out by Mike Johanns and Heidi Heitkamp, “…in this time of war, we can’t leave farmers questioning whether their heavy investments to increase crop yields are worth the risk. G7 agriculture ministers said it best when they  stated recently  that they are determined to “do what is necessary to prevent and respond to a food crisis.” It is our hope that Washington will join the agriculture industry in this effort and show the world, once again, the true strength of the American farmer.” 

While farm owners should take note of the warning signs and avoid making the systems too insecure. Many of the farms’ computers were designed for consumer use and did not have business settings.  

Reaching out to cybersecurity solutions providers like Alliant Cybersecurity can bring about a much-desired change. Alliant Cybersecurity caters to a much niche market comprising several small and medium businesses. Our team includes thought-leaders, authors, and highly respected experts in cybersecurity, legislation, and the professional service industry. 

In this war scenario, make sure your organization is protected. 

Augustin Kurian is the Associate Manager for Cyber Reports at Alliant Cybersecurity, an infosec subsidiary of the alliantgroup. In his role he is responsible for producing content, preparing the content strategies for the division, and ensure all the editorial guidelines and policies are met.

Prior to that, he was the Assistant Editor of a popular cybersecurity magazine where he specialized in news, cybersecurity analysis, and interviewed eminent personalities in the infosec space.

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