Remote bricking of Ukrainian tractors raises agriculture security concerns
Modern agriculture depends on internet-connected machinery that is centrally controlled and collects and analyzes massive amounts of data, making it an inviting target for threat actors.
Against the backdrop of horrific reports from Russia’s Ukraine invasion, an encouraging story emerged earlier this month when unidentified Ukrainians remotely disabled tractors worth $5 million that Russian soldiers in the occupied city of Melitopol stole from Agrotek-Invest, an authorized John Deere dealer. The soldiers stole 27 pieces of farm machinery and shipped them primarily to Chechnya, 700 miles away, only to discover they had been rendered inoperable due to a “kill switch.”
The dealership tracked the machinery using the tractors’ embedded GPS technology. Although the equipment was reportedly languishing at a farm near Grozny on May 1, one source said the Russians had found consultants who would try to bypass the digital protection that bricked the machines.
Some observers fear that malicious actors could exploit the same technology Deere and other manufacturers use to update and monitor farm equipment. If successfully accomplished on a large-enough scale, a cyberattack could disrupt significant portions of what has become critical agricultural infrastructure.
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