Ransomware hackers find vulnerable target in US grain supply

The attacks have slowed the distributors’ operations by hampering their ability to quickly process grain as it comes in.


By Kevin Collier, NBC News

Oct. 7, 2021


At least three US grain distributors have been infected with ransomware in recent weeks, raising concerns that hackers have found an easy target in a vital part of the US food supply chain.


All three known victims are midwestern grain cooperatives that buy grain from farmers, and then process, store, and resell it for uses like livestock feed and fuel. The attacks, where organized cybercriminals lock up an organization’s computers and demand a ransom for a program to unlock it, has slowed the distributors’ operations, hampering their ability to quickly process grain as it comes in.


The timing is particularly bad, said Charles Hurbugh, head of Iowa State University’s Grain Quality Laboratory.


“We’re going into harvest, and right now is when they’re taking in a large amount of grain and putting a large amount of grain,” Hurbugh said. “It’s a real nasty situation.”


Like many industries, grain production has heavily digitized operations that were previously done by hand. Hackers who deploy ransomware against them, locking up their computers and demanding payment, may not be able to stop the distributors entirely, but they can severely slow them down.


The largest of the three known victims...