Sep 21, 2021 - Business

Russian hackers target Iowa farm co-op

Farmer in Iowa

Farmer in Iowa. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Russian hackers launched a ransomware attack on an Iowa farming co-op and demanded $5.9 million to unlock the company's computer networks, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: NEW Cooperative, a member-owned alliance of soy and corn farmers consisting of over 8,000 members, was forced to go offline on Tuesday due to the cyberattack. The system is used to track food supply chains and feeding schedules for millions of chickens, hogs and cattle.

  • The hacking group BlackMatter threatened to publish the group's data —including research, development documents and the code to its soil-mapping technology — if it did not receive the ransom payment in cryptocurrency by Sept. 25, WashPost reports. The co-op notified law enforcement.

What they're saying: "Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively taken our systems offline to contain the threat, and we can confirm it has been successfully contained," the co-op said in a statement to news outlets.

The big picture: The FBI warned food and agriculture producers earlier this month that they could be targeted by cybercriminals.

  • Such attacks can "disrupt operations, cause financial loss, and negatively impact the food supply chain," the FBI notes.
  • "Larger businesses are targeted based on their perceived ability to pay higher ransom demands, while smaller entities may be seen as soft targets, particularly those in the earlier stages of digitizing their processes," the FBI added.

Of note: Russian cybercrime cell REvil, also known as Sodinokibi, attacked one of the world's largest meat producers, JBS USA, earlier this year.


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