Collaborative Project Seeks to Protect Agricultural Technology from Cyberattacks

Santosh Pitla and Flex-Ro
Santosh Pitla poses with the Flex-Ro autonomous tractor in June 2019. (Photo by Greg Nathan, University Communication)

Collaborative Project Seeks to Protect Agricultural Technology from Cyberattacks

A University of Nebraska research team is working on a critical issue in agriculture and automated systems: cybersecurity for agricultural machinery and technology.

Santosh Pitla, associate professor of advanced machinery systems at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, brought together team members from the Nebraska U and University of Nebraska at Omaha campuses in fall 2020 through a project looking at the security and hackability of autonomous farm vehicles that was supported through the University of Nebraska Collaborative Initiative seed funding.

This topic is becoming increasingly relevant as farmers try to produce more food with fewer resources, George Grispos, assistant professor of cybersecurity at UNO, said in a Fast Company article he co-authored.

“The advent of precision farming comes at a time of significant upheaval in the global supply chain as the number of foreign and domestic hackers with the ability to exploit this technology continues to grow,” he wrote in the article.

In addition, cyberattacks in the ag sector have already occurred. For example, in 2021, a grain storage cooperative in Iowa was targeted by a Russian-speaking group called BlackMatter, Reuters reported.

Grispos said the integration of automated technologies in farm equipment has the potential to increase vulnerability to cyberattacks, even on smaller farm operations.

“While previous attacks have targeted larger companies and cooperatives and aimed to extort the victims for money, individual farms could be at risk, too,” he said.

To learn more about the project and how it may aid in the creation of cybersecurity solutions for precision ag equipment, read the full article in IANR’s Newsroom.

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