AMES, Iowa – Cyberattacks in agriculture, food supply and farming industries are a growing concern, as attackers become more creative and target sectors critical to human infrastructure. With 50 billion devices connected to the internet, everyone is vulnerable. An important part of cybersecurity is cyber defense, and the best way to prepare for a cyberattack is with preventative mitigation.
With these concerns in mind, a series of webinars dedicated to strengthening the digital protections in place for farm businesses and families are being offered during this year’s Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Week.
The three-part series, offered through a partnership between ISU Extension and Outreach and ISU Center for Cybersecurity Innovation and Outreach, will begin at noon each day April 17 through April 19. The series is free and open to everyone. Each session will include a 30-minute presentation as well as time for questions from the participants. Webinars will be recorded for later viewing. “Farm families and business owners are asking: What can happen? How can I reduce my risk? And what do I do when it happens? Webinar attendees will learn the answers to these questions and create a plan to reduce their cybersecurity risk,” said Alexis Stephens, ISU Extension and Outreach farm management specialist.
Monday’s webinar, “Keeping Your Farm Family Secure” will provide an understanding of what an adversary is, what they are looking for, examples of concerns faced and advice for mitigating these concerns. Tuesday’s webinar, “Conducting Your Farm Business Safely,” focuses on malware, vulnerable systems and protection of sensitive information. The series will conclude on Wednesday, with “Building Your Farm Cyber Toolbox.” Presenters will guide attendees through the how-to of multi factor authentication, wireless systems, password keepers, secure documents and choosing a technology service provider.
“The Farm Management Team is so grateful to be working with Doug Jacobson and his team at the Center for Cybersecurity,” said Madeline Schultz, ISU Extension and Outreach program manager. “We’ve learned a lot ourselves and are excited to share our knowledge with others. Jacobson literally ‘wrote the book’ on cybersecurity. Bring your questions to the webinars and get answers from an expert.”
Although many believe cyberattacks are a computer issue, this is actually a human issue. Attackers use social engineering to target specific industries and people through phone calls, text messages, websites, email and more.
One mitigation strategy is separation of users and technology. For example, your 8-year-old grandchild should not have access to the same device used to maintain sensitive farm data. You never know what accidents users – no matter how old – may get themselves into. Instead, use different devices for work and personal uses.
Educating oneself about cybersecurity is the most important mitigation strategy. It is essential to get ahead of the inevitable curve and prepare, as less can be done once a cybersecurity attack has occurred.
Register for the Cybersecurity on the Farm webinar series at https://go.iastate.edu/FH25MU. This series utilizes the Webex Webinar platform. Attendees can join Webex Webinars on a computer, mobile device (with Webex mobile app), or browser.
This cybersecurity webinar series was developed through the North Central Risk Management Education grant project, “Cybersecurity for Iowa Farmers and Rural Businesses,” and supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2021-70027-34694. Project partners include the ISU Extension and Outreach farm management team and the ISU Center for Cybersecurity and Innovation Outreach.
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