What Does Cybersecurity Have to do With Our Food Supply?

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Since the beginning of digital technology, security has been an issue. Hackers are constantly searching for new methods of entry into servers to gain access to confidential data. Yet, when most people think of hacking, they most likely do not imagine the food and beverage supply chains as being a major target. However, there has been a new trend in cyberattacks that puts this sector in the forefront of the cybersecurity community.

Understanding agroterrorism
In a webinar entitled Cybersecurity and Food & Agriculture,” the National Cybersecurity Institute stated that the “Department of Homeland Security has labeled the Food and Agriculture industry as one of the 16 national critical infrastructures.” These infrastructures are always at a higher risk for attack than other sectors. In regards to the Food and Agriculture division, the issue lies with agroterrorism. Forbes defined agroterrorism as the “intentional contamination of the food supply with a goal of terrorizing the population and causing harm.” This works on two levels. The first being that hackers could infiltrate major supply chains and disrupt the transportation of goods where they are needed. This is dangerous because it could leave certain areas without food and beverages. The second level is that hackers could gain access to the programmable logic controllers that control the process of food irradiation. These bad actors could manipulate the amount of chemicals put into the food, causing widespread illness, and potentially, death.

Imagine if your favorite foods posed a threat to you.Imagine if your favorite foods posed a threat to you.

How is cybersecurity related?
Food Quality and Safety reported that cyberthreats to the food and beverage industry are extremely dangerous for everyone. The organization concluded insecure remote access, weak security configurations, outdated firewalls, negligence, operating system flaws, lack of staff training, flawed security policies, and poor change control procedures were major areas of cyberweakness in the food and beverage supply chain.

How can cybersecurity keep the food and beverage industry safe?
Addressing the weaknesses listed above and improving the cybersecurity in the food and beverage industry could prevent an agroterrorist from infiltrating a major chain and causing serious problems for the nation. All those involved with food and agriculture supply chains should employ trained cybersecurity professionals to scout their systems for weaknesses and maintain their security software. These individuals can also help correct other problems that might lead to a cyber attack. The less control the hackers can gain, the safer the food supply is.

If you are interested in becoming one of the people trained to keep the nation’s food and agricultural supply safe, you should consider a career in cybersecurity. The National Cybersecurity Institute has degree programs designed to prepare you for a career in this ever-evolving field. The National Cybersecurity Institute’s website also has a blog where industry professionals discuss current events, a webinar and podcast section where cybersecurity issues are reported on and a number of resources for those interested in the industry.

Click here to visit NCI’s website today.