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The Smart Agriculture Cybersecurity Challenge: How To Tackle It Effectively?

Farmers are often not cautious about technological advances and of concerns over security issues, which prevent them from putting their faith in the adoption of smart farming.

Agriculture is undoubtedly the backbone of India’s economy, with over half of its 1.3 billion+ population relying on it as their primary source of income/livelihood. However, agriculture is also one of the sectors that have been relatively slow in adopting technology. Now, the emergence of Agritech startups that provide innovative solutions by incorporating cutting-edge technology is proving to be a game-changer for this industry, giving rise to a new yet feasible and novel way of farming – smart farming.

Smart farming, by offering effective control of actuators, optimizing utility and resource consumption, managing productivity, increasing revenue, and minimizing costs, is undeniably improving farming activities. With over 450 Agritech startups and a market value of USD 24.1 billion, the sector continues to snowball despite the pandemic, primarily because the demand for food never reduces. In fact, Agritech companies in the country received investments of USD 300 million in 2020, and the industry is expected to develop at a CAGR of 32% from FY20 to FY25. By 2050, it is estimated that the agriculture business will feed a global population of 9.7 billion people. However, with the exponential growth of agriculture, security vulnerabilities and breaches have become a key source of concern for AgTech systems.

Elements of security concern that demand attention

Today, data is one of the most valuable assets that exist in this tech-driven world. And as farming becomes increasingly data-driven, there is no doubt that authentication and data access control are critical components of security in the Agritech ecosystem. However, many agricultural systems use gateways with weak or inadequate access controls, allowing unauthorized access to hackers to connect to the gateway via the internet, posing a risk to farmers’ data.

Data integrity is critical for ensuring privacy, integrity, and reliability, and doubling appropriate functioning of data-driven technologies. Faulty hardware or attacks, whether directed against the system or using the system as a channel for malicious activities, can jeopardize data security. The usage of Big Data gathers a vast amount of information that is vital to farmers, such as soil fertility and crop output. So, proprietary information storage is a big concern for farmers. They must have sufficient assurances about their data security, particularly when it is kept in a cloud-based system.

The majority of cyber security breaches are initiated by phishing communications (texts or emails) or websites, with the goal of obtaining personal user data such as ID and password. Having access to administrative credentials could lead to false commands being sent to actuators and system settings being changed, disrupting the entire internal process.

Tackling the cybersecurity challenges effectively

Farmers are often not cautious about technological advances and of concerns over security issues, which prevent them from putting their faith in the adoption of smart farming. So, the most effective measure for farmer data privacy and security would be to train the farmers, increase awareness, and educate them about data security.

A regular patching schedule and a comprehensive backup system that enables continuous threat monitoring and network forensics capabilities to detect and neutralize advanced cyber-attacks are required to deal with the issue. And recognizing the need for the moment, new-age Agritech platforms are working to eliminate the aforementioned threats by creating security-hardened systems with frequent patching schedules and reliable backup systems for active defense.

Furthermore, next-generation firewalls are being created to secure IoTs and other networked devices, servers, websites, and applications with security parameters. It is also necessary to ensure that the malware and virus detection software is up to date, as well as a variety of additional security measures can prove to be an effective weapon against this threat.

The road ahead

Undeniably, the Agritech players are reshaping the agriculture industry through their innovative and tech-driven processes, empowering stakeholders as well as consumers. But as farming is one of the most important aspects of any community, it is critical to concentrate on security issues in order to ensure its success. The foreseeable future will witness the growth of smart farming powered by Agritech platforms on a mission to revolutionize farming and improve farmers’ lives.

Source: Business World

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