Cybercrime striking horticulture, agriculture in 2020 too

There was an interesting thread in the “Nowhere to Hide: 2020 Threat Hunting Report” about other industries that were targeted by cybercrime during the first half of this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the 27 distinct industries targeted by cybercrime in the first six months of this year — twice as many industries targeted in the first half of 2019 — only five were targets of multiple state agents. One of those five, according to OverWatch, was the agriculture industry.

As I said in my previous post, state agents and eCriminals were looking to target both major points in the supply chain and “big game,” high-value targets. Obviously, state agents looking to cause either disruptions or panic would try to go after our food supplies. And eCriminals were targeting agriculture because of how much more they were producing (and therefore earning) to catch up with demand.

I double checked with Cal Cunningham with the CrowdStrike team, and he confirmed that agriculture — for the purposes of this report — includes horticulture. For those outside the know, agriculture and horticulture are similar enough to group together. In their basic forms, one grows foods or raises animals; the other grows flowers, plants and trees.

While you can find near unanimous agreement that food and drink is one of the most essential of essential industries during a pandemic, many in the horticulture industry worried if people would feel the same way about them.

cybersecurity horticulture

While people in COVID-19 quarantine spent time beautifying their homes, the horticulture industry became a huge cybercrime target because of their uptick in business.

People who were stuck at home with no work, school, church, or entertainment venues to go to, realized they could spend time in the great outdoors by planting flowers, shrubs and trees in their own yards. The successful spring season our Grower Vertical customers (ranging from young plant growers to finished growers) proved out this theory.

Ironically, many horticulture, nursey, and landscape professionals and organizations spent years trying to figure out how to get people interested in gardening once again. Turns out, all people needed was a pandemic to remind them to stop and smell the flowers.

As far as horticulture professionals go, you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “But we weren’t a victim of cybercrime.” It’s important to remember the OverWatch team was tracking potential intrusions. Some intrusions may have been test runs to check the feasibility of attacks. Other intrusions may have proven futile because the targets had top cybersecurity measures in place.

But just like I highlighted in my previous blog post, the traditional manufacturing industry became victim of its own success this year. The same looks true for the horticulture industry, even though they weren’t targeted nearly as much as their counterparts.

Both industries being targeted still comes to the same thing: Make sure you are doing everything you can to protect your business and your employees from the dangers this new focus on successful companies during the pandemic. This is especially true as the horticulture industry is quickly onboarding more sophisticated business systems like Sage X3.

The absolute, No. 1 thing any company can do to protect themselves against cybercrime is to educate their employees. The easiest route a cyber criminal has inside a company is through tricking an employee into inviting them past cyber security.

Cybercrime efax

Here are screen captures of the two phishing eFaxes I received. The green highlights showed when they actually showed up in my inbox. The blue highlights shows it came from the same number but different e-mail addresses. The yellow highlights show the date and time received, as well as the reference numbers, are the exact same — a dead giveaway it’s a cybercrime.

Last Thursday, I received two eFaxes from the same number within two hours of each other. Interestingly, I was out of the office that afternoon so I had a chance to see them both in my inbox at the same time, giving me a bit of perspective. It’s so odd to receive a fax these days — let alone two eFaxes in one afternoon — that I immediately thought something was funny. Sure enough, the two faxes from the same number came from two different e-mail addresses — a dead giveaway.

While many people are familiar with the term “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” it also goes without saying that if something doesn’t look right, it’s best to assume it’s not — especially when it comes to cyber security. I wasn’t expecting any eFaxes, and nobody I know uses faxes. If someone needed to send something to me, they would have just e-mailed it.

An eFax is the perfect piece of social engineering to get something through, and just as easy to spoof with a screen capture of its e-mail images. It comes with enticing links that says “review” and “trust sender.” All it takes is for one person to click on one of those links to bring spyware, ransomware, or any number of other malicious attacks through any security setup.

And again, the second thing is to always keep any and all software updated. This includes operating systems, server operating systems, business software, and even web browsers — which are used to run web-based aps. This combined with solid cyber security systems put in place is a valuable way of eliminating most known threats.

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