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  • Cyber safety for business

Estimated reading time is 5 minutes.

Technology is helping farmers become more productive and profitable, but it can also make them vulnerable to cybercrime.

Farmers hold business data and intellectual property that’s very attractive to cyber criminals. For example:

  • Criminals could use information about precision agriculture or smart farming processes for their own gain.
  • Malicious actors could sell farming information to competitors, both locally and overseas. They could also sell or use stolen information to gain an unfair advantage in the negotiation process with farmers.
  • Information in supply chains can also be vulnerable to cyber attack. Most farmers deal electronically with suppliers and their customers, creating masses of business data that cyber criminals can steal for financial benefit.

The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to keep your agribusiness safe.

How to protect your Agribusiness

1. Back up your business data regularly.

This could be as simple as copying your data onto a USB stick or a removable hard drive and storing it somewhere safe. It’s best practice to back-up your data on two different devices. You can also consider backing up your data to a secure cloud service.

Remember to disconnect the back-up device from the computer when you’re finished, as attackers are known to encrypt or delete back-ups connected to the computer or network.

It’s also important to test your back-up frequently by restoring data to a test location. This helps identify any problems, so you can be confident that your back-up will work in an actual crisis.

2. Use one computer that is for general family use, and one that is strictly for business.

If your work computer is also used for social media, playing games, watching videos and streaming music by you or other family members, it's more vulnerable to security issues. That’s because non-work use increases the risk of accidentally clicking on a suspicious link or allowing malicious software to be installed. Use a separate computer for business tasks and banking to help minimise this risk.

3. Check emails carefully.

Cyber criminals commonly use email to deliver malicious software. Some emails carrying malicious software or ransomware may appear to be a legitimate invoice from a farm supplier, an energy company or the ATO, for example.

Always check the sender address, ensure the request looks valid and consider whether the email is expected before responding to them. Be extra careful with emails that:

  • you’re not expecting
  • come from unknown senders or an unusual address
  • contain attachments or suspicious links.

Learn more about how to spot spam and phishing emails. You can also see the latest security alerts you need to be aware of.

4. Turn on Multi-Factor Authentication.

Add an extra layer of security to your email and banking accounts by turning on Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). This means providing an additional piece of information, such as an SMS code sent to your phone or a security token, in addition to your password, when you access your accounts. This can prevent unauthorised access even if someone has your password.

5. Install anti-virus software on your computers and use an up-to-date operating system.

It’s important to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date to protect yourself from the latest security threats. While trial anti-virus software is free, the software usually only updates during the trial period. Check your software to confirm that it's active and set to automatically update, scan and flag suspicious activity.

Also, turn on automatic updates for your computer’s operating system and programs. This will ensure your computer always has the latest security updates. Each operating system is slightly different, so if you're unsure check the Microsoft or Apple websites for information.

6. Remember that your business relies on other people's computers as well as your own.

Don’t be afraid to ask your accountant, bookkeeper or business manager about their online security practices, to see how they’re protecting your data. Cyber criminals often target third parties to gain access to a business’s data.

If you’ve made a substantial investment in information technology, talk to an impartial advisor. People who sell the equipment might downplay the risks while people who sell cyber security might recommend more protection than is strictly necessary. No-one can guarantee that you won’t be hacked, but, like regular thieves, the majority of cyber criminals are opportunists. In most cases, all you need to do is convince them that they should move on to an easier target.

Helpful resources

Easy ways to protect your computer from malware

Don’t be a victim of cyber criminals. Learn how to protect your computer from malware.

Recover fast from business disruptions

When it comes to unexpected disruptions a business continuity plan can help keep your business running.

Safely storing your data

Your stored business data travels in and out of your network. What key controls can you put in place to ensure it’s safe?

How to protect your business from online security threats

Online threats don’t have to turn into crimes with security controls in place.