Cyber Security has become a fundamental part of running a business in the 21st Century, even in the world of agriculture. After 2020, both small and large businesses began to give precedence to their Cyber hygiene as soon as stories like the Colonial Pipeline, SolarWinds, and the CNA ransomware attack began to saturate headlines across the nation. As we enter the second half of 2022, it is crucial that we all prioritize not only our Cyber Security programs and practices, but that of our customers as well. The more proficient our customers are at utilizing safe online strategies, the safer our own business environments will become as a whole. Our team here at Farm Credit of Southern Colorado encourages you to review the below guide to essential tips and tricks to help keep you and your agriculture business safe. Here’s some critical guidelines to help ensure your personal and professional cyber security practices are up to par and truly safe:

  • Maintain a resilient platform. Keeping all computers and mobile devices updated on all security software, web browser, and operating systems is the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Scammers are now implementing “attacks” via email phishing, text messaging, online sales, phone calls and even pop-up windows or chats while working online. Turning on automatic updates will also allow your device, desktop or mobile, to immediately receive the newest fixes as they become available. Each of the above can keep your platforms safe and resilient to these tumultuous times.
  • Cyber Security in AgricultureSetting a strong password with at least eight characters is extremely important as well. Especially creating one that includes a difficult combination of lower- and upper-case letters, numbers, and special characters for optimal security too. Recalling a passphrase or setting up a second level of authentication may lead to greater security as well. Even with those hard-to-guess logins, you still need to make sure to change all passwords frequently, on top of ensuring you are using different passwords on different platforms is yet another helpful security measure you can take. Investing in a password manager is a great tool to ensure your password is strong and secure, only if that is super secure too. Protect yourself by protecting your passwords, new or old.
  • Roughly 90% of data breaches occur due to phishing. Phishing scams often use fraudulent e-mails and fake websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. DO NOT click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens you do not recognize or did not click to yourself. Anything unfamiliar online asking for anything should always be off limits. Feel free to forward phishing e-mails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov so they can investigate further, in addition to reaching out to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the e-mail. When receiving a request for personal information that you’re unsure of, always verify the source by calling the company at a published verified telephone number. Avoid calling any phone numbers printed on the e-mail requesting the information as those are most likely scams as well. Just be diligent and observant when submitting any personal or professional information online.
  • Be wary of urgent requests. Creating an urgent timeline within their narrative is how many scammers coerce unsuspecting users to convey sensitive data, or even force them to grant access to their bank accounts. A great habit to combat this is to place your cursor over the sender’s e-mail address and over any links embedded into the e-mail and check the domain source of each link. If the URL of those links appear fishy or are not from the domain of whom they’re claiming to be, they are spam. Always verify everything is coming from a trusted source you recognize.
  • Keep ALL personal information personal. Scammers notoriously use social media to decipher your personal passwords and even guess answer security questions in the password reset tools from what they find on your SM accounts. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting information related to birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, or anything you create your passwords from. Better yet, don’t make your passwords so obvious that they can easily be guessed just by knowing your name or birthday. Also always beware of friend requests or private messages to connect with people you do not know.
  • When connecting to a free or public Wi-Fi network, be cognizant of all information you access and are sending others. You should always also make sure to connect to only trusted internet connections, but even then, public Wi-Fi can always be compromised. When out and about using Wi-Fi, just be smart. And never forget to protect your home wireless network with a difficult password that even guests you know would have a hard time guessing, just to be sure.
  • Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) is a critical part of online security, professionally and personally. MFA requires two or more pieces of personal information to verify that “you” are actually “you” when logging into any type of system or account. We highly recommend agreeing to MFA on all sites that offer it to add that deeper level of security to your cyber profile.
  • Shop securely. Before ever shopping online, make sure the website you’re browsing on uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https and includes that “s” to confirm the site is secure. In addition, check to see if a locked padlock symbol appears at the top of your page in the tab or in the site link you’re currently on. This confirms the site is secure as well. We suggest always shopping from those sources you absolutely trust and know and if you venture off onto a new, smaller business site, just do your research before purchasing anything. Ordering items online can be a huge vulnerability to losing your bank info, passwords, or worse, identity, so be careful.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding Cyber Security, please contact our Risk Management Department, or Naomi Baumann at (303)721-3263 or Naomi.Baumann@fccsconsulting.com. Or give our team here at Farm Credit of Southern Colorado a call for assistance as well. We are here to either hop in and help or point you in the right direction for immediate security breach assistance. Call now for more information.

Farm Credit Captive Insurance Contact
Naomi Baumann
Director of Claims & Loss Prevention

This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial, legal, or investment advice. Any information contained in this post is subject to change without notice and should not be relied upon without seeking the advice of a qualified professional. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of our Association. The author and Association are not responsible for any errors or omissions and are not liable for any losses or damages arising from the use of the information contained in this post.