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Farmers are leaving their businesses exposed to the damaging effects of cybercrime, with many unaware that their traditional insurance policies do not cover them for the theft of money or goods by digital means.

Stephen Ward, associate sales director at H&H Insurance Brokers, said cybercrime was a growing problem for all sectors, including farming, as shown by recent news stories about attacks on the NHS and other parts of government.

“We live in a modern world with an ever-changing risk landscape,” he said. “One area which all farmers, landowners and rural businesses need to consider and review is their cybersecurity.”

See also: Farmers among top targets for financial fraudsters

Mr Ward said farms could be an attractive target to hackers, who were often taking the view that small and medium-sized businesses had less rigorous IT security in place than bigger companies.

Protection

Farmers and landowners needed to consider how best to protect themselves against the threats, with the first line of defence being suitable virus protection.

They should also be talking to their insurance broker to ensure they have appropriate cover should the worst happen.

“As so many transactions are now being managed and completed electronically online, all devices, mobiles, tablets and computers should be protected, and should be insured against such risks as viruses, fraud, identity theft and of course, money laundering,” he said.

Cyber insurance

“Without an implemented cyber insurance policy, you would not be covered for the financial loss you have incurred.”

Mr Ward said many people wrongly assumed that if they fell victim to a fraudster who phoned them up and cleared out their bank account, they would be covered because it was theft.

“However, under a standard policy, theft is defined as ‘theft by forcible or physical means’, so does not cover a cyber theft by digital or data means.”

Mr Ward said farmers should consider a basic cyber cover policy, typically costing £200-£300, which would cover them if money was stolen from their bank account as a result of fraudulent activity.

They could also look at cyber liability cover, which protects businesses that unintentionally
transmit a virus or distribute something that damages the reputation of others.

Business interruption cover is another option that covers loss of income following a cyber event, including an attack that prevents access to vital systems.

Mr Ward said anyone taking out cover would first be expected to be able to prove that they had systems in place to minimise the risks of being a victims of cybercrime.

As a guide this could involve following the guidelines set down by the government-backed cyber security certification scheme called Cyber Essentials.

“Businesses need to both continually manage and monitor these risks with their IT providers and advisers, and should consistently ensure they have taken the necessary measures to protect themselves – should the worst happen.”

Cybercrime facts

Only one-third of all UK businesses have formal written cyber security policies and only 10% have an incident management plan in place, according to Office of National Statistics.

Bank and credit account fraud are the most common types of fraud experienced online.