Criminal hackers set their “sites” on agricultural businesses

  • With small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) hacked every 19 seconds[1], Naq Cyber Co-Founder and CEO, Nadia Kadhim, warns that poorly protected farming businesses need to take the threat of cyberattacks seriously due to the damaging follow-on effects a compromised business can have on the rest of the supply chain

“Criminal groups are targeting agricultural businesses more and more due to the flow-on disruption to other industries, such as transport and retail,” says Nadia, a former Child Rights Lawyer and GDPR expert turned cybersecurity start-up founder.

“Quite simplistic but sophisticated methods are being used and agriculture is an easy target due to the use of technology in many different aspects of the business.”

Naq Cyber, and founders Nadia and Chris Clinton, completed the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre’s accelerator programme and soon partnered with Farm491 after being contacted by several farm businesses that had been breached and seeking support.

“Cyber security is about data, but also the system as a whole. One specific agricultural issue that we’ve been investigating with the help of Farm491 is that there is a large risk for some farms to be targeted by animal rights or vegan activists. We can support farms to take preventative action by scanning specific parts of the web to see if the farm name or location has been mentioned and if there are public events planned.

“Unfortunately, when SMEs are hacked, the financial loss can be between £8,000 to £300,000 alongside the loss of business, reputational damage, and operational disturbance. In addition, the Information Commissioner’s Office has also started to crack down on data breaches and non-compliance with GDPR with fines ranging from £15,000 – 25,000.”

Naq Cyber has also noticed that during the pandemic there are more farmers creating websites to support their marketing which can further increase their risk to cyber-attacks.

“We take their website details and then scan the ‘dark web’, a hidden collective of internet sites favoured by hackers, for any mention of the farm which then feeds into their system. We use this combined with best practice cyber security to then create a Cyber Security Action Plan which details, step by step, what the company needs to do to protect themselves and why it is important.”

Farm491, which is a vibrant hub based at the Royal Agricultural University, supports entrepreneurs and innovators like Nadia to help grow the UK’s AgriTech ecosystem and promote the adoption of new technologies in the future of food production.

An incubator rather than an accelerator, it supports entrepreneurs to dive deep into their business potential with access to expert talks, research and development, commercial initiatives, mentoring and networking. Farm491 also offers inspiring workspaces in three different styles from practical workshops to state-of-the-art hot desking.

Nadia says that working with Head of Farm491, Sarah Carr, has been invaluable in expanding into the agricultural industry. “Going from an employed and stable job to becoming an entrepreneur is daunting and Farm491, alongside the other accelerator, helped show us the way. Sarah and the team at Farm491 have been great in putting us in touch with anyone and everyone as this isn’t a target market that we were previously familiar with.”

Naq Cyber provide the tools and support that you need to boost your business’ resilience against the very real threat of a data breach or cyber-attack and take care of the necessary steps to ensure your business is GDPR compliant.

1], UK small businesses targeted with 65,000 attempted cyber attacks per day.