Tag: Tips

Farmers can be sitting ducks


By Joyce Hunter

Cyber-attacks are in the news every day.  Botnets, malware, ransomware, phishing, and sniffing attack pipelines, hospitals, and water plants daily. 

Meat processors and cooperatives suffer attacks, too, and the more individual farmers and ranchers rely upon necessary information technology, these producers also become targets. But how can growers avoid being Sitting Ducks against cyber attacks? 

Most ag producers don’t have an IT expert on call. Although security experts are almost everywhere, their recommendations often include so many mitigation tactics that users on the ground don’t know which ones matter most.  Like water everywhere and not a drop to drink, the “flood,” i.e., all the hype and waves of endless information, tend to confuse – and overwhelm – people who really must protect themselves.

Here are tips to help prepare for a cyber-attack.

Email presents a massive opportunity for attackers to trick victims into downloading Malware. This tactic, called “phishing,” is how senders disguise themselves to sound like someone important to the victim. For farmers, attackers may pretend to be a cooperative, supplier, implement dealer – anyone critical to farmers’ businesses.

Phishing aims to get the email recipient to download and install malware onto the recipient’s computer. Attackers will either attach or link to the malware in the email.

The best way to identify phishing is to trust your instincts: 

  • If the email looks fishy, it probably is. Do not trust unfamiliar email addresses. If you suspect an email is a phishing email, do not click on any link or attachment. Delete the email.

must install before damage can occur by:

  1. Getting the malware downloaded onto the computer; 
  2. Tricking victims into installing, opening, and running the malware and;
  3. Collecting the bounty – data, money, passwords, etc. – from the malware.

A common way to trick people into downloading malware begins with a phishing email. The phishing email contains malware directing the potential victim to share login information to a website that tricks people into thinking they have found their account.  The computer uses these logins to install the malware by opening the attachment or running the program as prompted by the website. For protection, remember: 

  1. Red Flag: Any time a new program installs onto a computer, a message asks, “Do you want to run this program in pop-up windows?” This question protects users from common mistakes. A lack of disclosure is a Red Flag for malware.
  • Solution:  If malware is suspected, delete the email, attachment, and file. Installed malware will require a computer expert to solve the damage.

Authentication (passwords) 
used for social media and internet searches can make it easy for attackers to gather information.  They use the data – to guess the passwords of targeted victims based on what they’ve learned. For example, they might try a pet’s name, favorite sports team, etc., if they’ve found this information on your social media.

One option is to create a strong password using the first letters of a phrase coupled with numbers, such as “I like to watch science fiction with my wife 16,” resulting in a password of “iltwsfwmw16.”

Password secrecy is also about not sharing your password. 

  • Avoid writing a PIN on an ATM card, a sticky note on the screen, or document on a computer.
  • Use different passwords for different logins, e.g., email, bank, medical, and investments, where losing identity can be costly.
  • Save passwords by hand-writing into a small notebook (not on a computer) in a safe place. 
  • Best!  Download a password keeper program, like 1Password or Keepass. These programs manage passwords and keep them locked using a single, strong password, so you only need to remember one password.

are like insurance for your data, offering protection but hoping never to use.

Everyone has data – often photos, that would be devastating to lose. To prevent losing this data, perform a periodic archive to secure storage. The point of backing up data to secure storage – the cloud – is to be able to recover the data later.

Another type of backup is the ongoing data backup on your computer via cloud storage or a USB device. Most operating systems start backing up when the removable drive is connected. Both cloud backup and USB drive backup are good options. The cloud supplies off-site backup, so you will still have the data backed up to the cloud.

Key Takeaways

  1. No legitimate organization will ever ask for your bank information, social security number, or password.
  2. Use multi-factor authentication.
  3. Consider cloud-based backup to protect from cyber-attacks and natural disasters.
  4. If you need a tech person’s help, many qualified people can help.

Joyce Hunter is the former Deputy CIO, Policy and Planning, for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Advisory Board Chair for CyberAg Supplying cybersecurity outreach, education, awareness, and access for the agriculture and food supply chain. 

Help prevent dairy farm chemical contamination with these tips

Help prevent dairy farm chemical contamination with these tips

The following information is provided by Nationwide®, the #1 farm and ranch insurer in the U.S.*

Chemicals keep equipment clean and animals healthy on many modern dairy farms. But when mishandled, they can cause problems for farmers and their cows. Dairy cross-contamination can also cause health problems for milk consumers.
In general, consider these steps to help keep chemicals out of your milk:
  • Monitor and document chemical use
  • Follow label instructions and dairy best management practices
  • Conduct regular, frequent inspections of farms and animals
  • Train workers to properly handle and administer chemicals
  • Update protocols regularly based on chemicals used


“All workers should be trained. Include education on chemical usage,documentation and proper storage and application,” said Nationwide Agribusiness Senior Risk Management Consultant Lance Reeve. “When a new chemical is introduced, train workers on potential hazards. Account for any special handling requirements and ways to prevent exposure.”

Minimize antibiotic risks
Dairy antibiotics help keep cows healthy and productive. But every farmer must make sure milk is free of even a trace of them before it leaves the farm. Work with a veterinarian and keep detailed records on specific products, their doses and when they’re given. Many antibiotics have labeled withdrawal periods. Observe those times to help keep them out of the consumer dairy supply chain.
“Review records regularly with a veterinarian who visits the farm,” Reeve said. “All farm workers need to know the importance of following protocols for antibiotic use. This training is vital to preventing cross-contamination.”
Build a chemical control program
There are a lot of other chemicals used on dairy farms. Account for the following product types in a chemical control program for your farm:
  • Cleaners
  • Sanitizers
  • Lubricants
  • Other animal treatments and medications

Your program should include how to take care of potential chemical residues in animals, barns and on equipment. Follow all specific product label instructions or warnings about cross-contamination and safe handling. Finally, have a plan for how you will eliminate those residues.

“Ensure you are appropriately managing all chemicals to protect employees and milk,” Reeve said. “For example, many cleaners are concentrated. If you dilute one before using, follow label instructions. Then, verify and document those steps.”
Don’t take shortcuts
It’s sometimes tough to resist the urge to do things like reuse containers, for example. Doing so can cause exposure even when all other protocols are followed.
A part of managing chemicals on a dairy farm is managing your workforce. Make sure only your workers and other approved personnel are allowed on the farm. Store chemicals securely and allow only trained, authorized workers access to them.
“Every worker on the farm needs to know mishandling chemicals creates a risk to themselves and the milk,” Reeve said. “All workers need general chemical training and education on protocols like safe storage and prohibited uses of unapproved chemicals.”
Visit AgInsightCenter.com for more expert tips and information from Nationwide.
*A.M. Best Market Share Report 2020.
The information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable.Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice or other advice but should be confirmed with alternative sources.Nationwide, the Nationwide Nand Eagle, and Nationwide is on your side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.© 2021 Nationwide
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