Advertiser content

Is agriculture at risk from cyber crime?

Provided by

Our highly experienced team of accounting and finance experts advise thousands of farmers every day and many of the team are from farming backgrounds so understand the challenges that come with running a farm.

We are unique in the farming industry with local offices and local people, which means we are part of the community, your community, we understand local situations and have local contacts, supported by a national network of offices across the UK.

In addition to core accounting we offer specialist advice in obtaining or restructuring finance, inheritance tax planning, diversification, insurance, agricultural property relief, maximising tax reliefs and reviewing business structures, with a client led service offering bespoke solutions to local rural businesses.

For more information about Baldwins’ Rural and Farming Team visit www.baldwinsaccountants.co.uk

Most media coverage about cyber-crime shares horrendous examples of how individuals or families’ lives have been ruined by ruthless scams. This is no different in the agriculture sector.

Cyber crime has become a major industry – and the cyber security industry has grown rapidly to tackle the scale of the problem. 

The Office of National Statistics estimates that 4.5 million cyber crimes were committed in the UK in the 12 months up to March 2018. 

You are statistically more likely to fall victim to a cyber crime in the UK than you are to any other type of crime.

Agriculture should consider cyber crime

By Magda de Jager, Cyber Security Expert

As the cyber security systems become more adept at preventing and pursuing consumer fraud, the cyber criminals are constantly looking for ways to target business and in particular new revenue streams.

Farming businesses are no exception and farmers are especially at risk at this time of the year, as it is well known that the basic payment subsidy has been paid out and sales from summer harvests have been concluded.

Many farmers also get involved in Christmas tree sales in November and December, again generating a new stream of income. Criminals see this is an opportunity to commit fraud.

Amongst commercial organisations, numerous breaches have occurred, impacting banks, police forces and even defence firms. 

Wipro, a major IT services business, recently reported a major attack on its IT systems, after it was targeted by a phishing campaign.

The problems being faced by large organisations should be a warning call for farmers, owner managed businesses, social enterprises and charities, many of whom are at high risk of becoming unsuspecting cyber victims.   

And it is their supply chains that offer some of the best opportunities for cyber theft. Why?”

Smaller enterprises just do not have the scale, resources or systems to protect, prevent and counter cyber fraud. 

Furthermore, they tend to work with a much wider network of suppliers and intermediaries. 

A recent survey of IT risks amongst SMEs undertaken by Scott Moncrieff highlighted the very low level of investment in cyber security, poor understanding of the processes involved, and their high levels of vulnerability to attack.

Any point in the supply chain that creates a break in the flow of relationships, information, products, logistics and services, creates a potential for weakness in systems, and a window of opportunity for the cyber crooks.

Like a house purchase, the more links in the chain of suppliers, the bigger the risk, and the greater the costs, including:

  • Finding an alternative supplier
  • Business interruption or shut down
  • Scrutiny and fines from regulators
  • Loss of productivity
  • Reputational cost, loss of trust and subsequent loss of clients

Prevention of cyber crime is far more cost-effective rather than having to deal with the bureaucracy, cost and reputational damage of a security failure”.

Key cyber security strategies and solutions that should be considered include:

  • Adopting relevant industry standards and frameworks, we recommend the National Cyber Security Centre’s Small Business Guide as an excellent starting point

  • Invest in and keep investing in the latest technologies and systems, and ensure that your systems are regularly patched

  • Risk assess your suppliers and business relationships, if they are protecting your assets – do you know what their cyber security arrangements are? Have your suppliers invested in meeting any cyber security standards? 

  • Employ or engage specialists that really understand the issues, and know how to implement and manage the very best cyber security systems and solutions

  • Consider cyber insurance

Cyber risk is now a permanent feature of our lives, and increasingly so for businesses. 

You need to understand and manage not just the risk to your own business but also satisfy yourself that the businesses you depend on are also taking the risks seriously.

Magda de Jager is a cyber security expert at Scott Moncrieff, Part of the Baldwins Group within the firm’s Business Consulting Team.

If you would like to discuss cybercrime and how to protect you and your business, then please contact us on 0845 894 8966 or email us at rural@baldwinsgroup.com