Technological advances over the past decade have changed the way we live, interact, and do business. In the horticultural industry alone, we’re seeing many examples of greenhouses adopting new technology to improve standards—from growing and harvesting efficiencies to customer communications.
However, while improved technology and automation come with significant benefits for your horticultural operations, they also open your business to the potential of cyberattacks.
Let’s take a look at the common types of cybercrime and—more importantly—what you can do to protect your business.
In early 2022, a surge of cyberattacks aimed at agricultural operations during critical planting and harvest seasons prompted an FBI warning to business owners. In a statement from April 2022, the agency noted: "Although ransomware attacks against the entire farm-to-table spectrum of the (food and agriculture) sector occur on a regular basis, the number of cyberattacks against agricultural cooperatives during key seasons is notable."
Recent cyberattacks occurring within the horticultural industry include:
Ransomware is malicious software that restricts access to files—usually by encryption. Cyber criminals can threaten to delete, share publicly, or leave the data encrypted if the victim doesn’t pay the ransom.
According to a 2022 SonicWall Inc. report, the number of ransomware attacks more than doubled between 2020 and 2021, and made up 10 percent of all breaches. Because any device that connects to the internet can be affected by ransomware—and the number of connected devices within growing operations is increasing—this type of breach has quickly become one of the largest threats to businesses.
Phishing is one of the most well-known tactics in cybercrime, with attacks reaching a record high in the first quarter of 2022, according to a report from Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG). Phishing is when cyber criminals send fraudulent emails or messages—usually disguised as legitimate communications—in an attempt to take personal information, money, or gain access to a device. Oftentimes, the messages are written to make the reader feel a sense of urgency to click a link or send information.
Phishing compromises your business’s data security and can lead to more costly ransomware attacks down the road. Phishing is especially dangerous because virtually any employee with an email address may be targeted. Preventing phishing breaches requires strong IT security protocols, regular training, and full-team awareness.
Fraudulent impersonation occurs when a cyber attacker impersonates someone—such as an authority figure or a vendor—to gain data or money from your business. The scam may begin as a phone call, email, text or other form of communication. Many attacks occur when well-meaning employees receive an invoice from a fraudulent vendor and transfer money to the criminal’s bank account. This type of attack could quickly impact your financial security and expose your business’s bank account data.
We hear about it regularly—information meant to be kept private gets out into the public, due to either carelessness or crime. Regardless of the root cause, there are actions you can take to help protect yourself, your employees, and your customers.
“We see firsthand how much new technology our customers use to manage their businesses,” said Dan Zastava, director of corporate underwriting. “My advice is to make sure to have the right partners in place to protect your IT infrastructure and teach everyone on you team how to prevent a breach.”
Some standard measures your horticultural business can take to reduce the risk and impact of cyberattacks include:
Train your employees as soon as they’re hired—and at least annually thereafter—so they understand their role in protecting your business. Teach them basic practices surrounding IT equipment, and how to recognize and react to phishing scams. Have policies set in place so they know what practices are acceptable and unacceptable. More often than not, cyber infections can be traced back to someone clicking something they shouldn’t. Education and vigilance are important.
Have a software/hardware security expert check your system for strong encryption and authorization protocols. Lock up laptops and other devices when not in use, and properly dispose of outdated technology by ensuring all data has been wiped from the system. Update your operating systems and security software automatically to fix security flaws. Require strong user passwords and a password reset at regular intervals.
Ransomware's target is data. Backing up your data is among the most cost-effective ways of making sure information is recovered in the event of a cyber incident or computer issues. Reliable backups help reduce your risk of losing data.
Cyber insurance can help protect your business against losses resulting from a cyberattack. It protects your business for liability to others and can reimburse you for expenses related to a data breach—which could include:
It can be frustrating to fall victim to cybercrime, but acting quickly can help minimize the impact on your business. By taking an active approach to your response, you can potentially limit the damage and save your business money—not to mention headaches.
If you believe your systems have been compromised in some way, don’t panic, instead:
Data encryption can take a long time. If you suspect your files are being encrypted, disconnect your devices from any network (wired and wireless) and disconnect the power source.
In the event of a cybercrime, get any internal IT or security resources involved and contact your internet service provider and local law enforcement agencies immediately. They can recommend appropriate next steps and assist you with the situation.
If you have cyber liability insurance, it may include the following coverages:
A data breach can damage more than just your computer system–it also can damage your reputation and put your customers and/or employees at risk.
With cyber liability insurance, we can help cover losses if confidential data is compromised at your company. We can also provide information and resources to help you prevent losses before they happen. If you have questions or would like to learn more about our full range of horticultural business insurance coverages or safety services, contact us today or request a quote.
Not sure if you have appropriate coverages for your expanding greenhouse operation? Read this insurance guide for greenhouse growers to find out.
Learn how taking a proactive safety approach at your horticultural business can help improve your operations and protect your bottom line.
Vertical growing in greenhouses or shipping containers is a rising trend. Read about the benefits of this shift to indoor vertical growing.
Hortica® property and casualty coverages are underwritten, and loss control services are provided, by Florists’ Mutual Insurance Company, Florists’ Insurance Service, Inc., Edwardsville, IL, or affiliated members of the Sentry Insurance Group. For more information, visit hortica.com. Policies, coverages, benefits, and discounts are not available in all states. See policy for complete coverage details.
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