Iowa Farm Services Company: Systems Offline Due To Cyber Security Incident
CHICAGO, Sept. 20 (Reuters) – Iowa-based agricultural services provider NEW Cooperative Inc said Monday its systems were offline to contain a “cybersecurity” incident as the U.S. farm belt braces for the harvest.
The cooperative operates grain storage silos in America’s first corn-producing state, buys crops from farmers, sells fertilizers and other chemicals needed for cultivation, and has technology platforms for farmers that provide agronomic advice on how to maximize their harvests.
“We have proactively taken our systems offline to contain the threat, and we can confirm that it has been successfully contained,” NEW Cooperative Inc said in a statement. “We also promptly briefed law enforcement and are working closely with data security experts to investigate and remedy the situation.”
Several grain elevators operated by the NEW Cooperative contacted by Reuters were open.
The timing of the attack makes it crucial for NEW to get their systems back online as soon as possible, as many farmers will start their combines this week and begin delivering their crops to NEW elevators across Iowa, said Don Roose, president of US Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa.
“They put you in a corner,” Roose said. “The harvest is right now. This is the week when we are just starting to increase the harvest, especially for soybeans. “
Cybersecurity has become the top priority of the Biden administration after a series of high-profile attacks on network management company SolarWinds Corp (SWI.N), Colonial Pipeline oil network, meat processing company JBS ( JBSS3.SA) and Kaseya enterprise software. The attacks have harmed the United States far beyond just the hacked companies, affecting fuel and food supplies. Read more
A spokesperson for the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declined to comment on the NEW Cooperative incident.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“This is a very clear attack on an organization that is part of our critical infrastructure,” said Allan Liska, senior analyst at US cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. “This could lead to disruptions in the delivery of food to parts of the country. “
A group of Russian-speaking cybercriminals named BlackMatter said on their website that they recently stole data from NEW Cooperative.
BlackMatter has been known to use ransomware to threaten their victims with data breaches, often extorting them for payment in cryptocurrency.
The claim follows a July meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Biden reportedly told Putin that “critical infrastructure” companies should be banned from ransomware gangs.
Cyber security experts and federal prosecutors say ransomware groups often operate from Russia or Ukraine. The “food and agricultural” industry is publicly defined as a critical infrastructure sector by the Department of Homeland Security.
Reporting by Karl Plume, editing by Franklin Paul, David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy
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