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Designing Cyber-Risk into Your Next Sustainable Innovation

Posted by Jacqueline Wilson-Smith on
Designing Cyber-Risk into Your Next Sustainable Innovation

The digital revolution and the advent of new technologies has reshaped almost every sector in the global economy, especially agriculture. Thanks to innovative agritech, farmers now have the ability to manage their farms remotely via apps, track their livestock, monitor crop health via drones and check soil moisture with sensorsall while inadvertently creating vast amounts of data in the process.  

This data, despite its ability to improve performance, has the potential to cause serious problems if not managed safely. 

What is cyber-risk? 

In a nutshell, cyber-risk is defined as "the potential loss or harm related to technical infrastructure or the use of technology within an organisation". All of the data we create gives hackers the opportunity to find their way inside our systems and take over, leaving us powerless. 

How does a breach in your cyber security impact our global food systems? 

Due to our interconnected and complex global food system (which is made up of consolidated food, financial and energy networks) there is high potential for cascading risk when a single data source is hacked, the whole network is compromised. 

This month Dr Molly Jahn from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Agronomy delivered a presentation on Cyber Risk and Security Implications for Agriculture at the Food Agility 2021 Summit. Dr Jahn shared an insightful example of Maersk, a logistics and supply chain company who were hacked in 2017, resulting in 10 billion dollars of damage due to 10 days of no shipping.  

What does this mean for sustainable innovation? How do we continue to innovate quickly and safely?  

Innovation is centred around solving problems, not creating new ones, so how do we continue to effectively innovate new technologies in agriculture without exposing ourselves to risk? The answer is threefold: 

1.  Innovate within a risk framework
According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), there are five key pillars to a cyber security framework. These can be found here and seen below.  
    • Deterrence: deterring malicious actors from targeting your business or organisation
    • Prevention: preventing people and sectors from being compromised online
    • Detection: identifying and responding quickly to cyber security threats
    • Resilience: minimising the impact of cyber security incidents
    • Investment: investing in essential cyber security enablers
      2.  Pinpoint and protect your innovations
      Identify where you are storing your critical IP and those files that deliver your competitive advantage. Make sure that you know who has access to these files and try to limit this access to only those people who truly need it. Consider encrypting to place an extra layer of security on these files. And, make sure that you back them up regularly, in fact, you should make it a point to schedule a regular backup all of your files. 
      3.  Instruct your innovators 
      Often the way that cyber attackers get in to a system is through the people who use it. Make sure that you talk to your team about creating strong passwords and not sharing login credentials. Employees should be instructed to only click an email link or attachment if they are certain that the sender is legitimate and to report any phishing attempts right away. Ask employees not to download software to devices used for work without checking that it is safe. Be sure that all computers and mobile phones are password protected and that people are mindful of the physical security of any devices containing company information. 

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