How the Latest Cyber Attack Could Have Been Avoided

Password “chicken”: Latest Cyberattack Hijacks Iowa Grain Co-op

This week Iowa farming co-op, New Cooperative fell victim to the hacking group, BlackMatter. The hackers threatened to publish a terabyte of the confidential data if $5.9 million in ransom is not received by September 25th. This incident echoes the cyberattack on the world’s largest meat processor JBS Food group, that forced the company to pay $11 million in ransom to the hacker group called REvil.

Agriculture industry experts are concerned about the long-term implications cyber risk has on the food supply chain. Regardless of industry, ransomware and other cyber attacks present serious financial and reputational risk, including supply chain instability, loss of public confidence, and in extreme cases, national security risks.

The Breach was Preventable

Researchers found the password “chicken1” was used by multiple employees at the company. This same password was ultimately used to gain access to New Cooperative’s sensitive data, including invoices, R&D documents, and soil-mapping technology.

This attack is concerning because it shows a trend of foreign hackers targeting critical infrastructure impacting supply chains. It also points to a more widespread problem: Lack of policies and IT controls.

Best practices dictate that passwords should be both complex and unique to each set of login credentials. This breach was yet another example of a failure in business process and controls – not the failure of technologies.

Take the Proactive Approach

OFFSITE engineers and analysts approach cybersecurity from a culture of regulatory compliance. Most of our clients are subject to financial regulations or ISO, PCI, SOC, or HIPAA. The staff in the OFFSITE Operations Center understands the importance of starting with written policies, then layering in controls to enforce those policies.

Here is an example:

Policy:              Network Users will have complex passwords

Control:           In Microsoft Active Directory Click “password must meet complexity requirements”

Conceptually this is not complicated, culturally it is clearly a challenge for companies like New Cooperative, Colonial Pipeline, JBS Food group, and many others.  Work with OFFSITE compliance and cybersecurity experts to avoid the reactive trap of buying new systems every time a new problem hits. We’ll make sure each security system (prem software, SaaS, or appliance) ties back to a specific IT control that fits in your company’s IT strategy.

To contact OFFSITE’s Network Operations Center, email or call (262) 564-6500.