Hackers target another U.S. grain co-op

Hackers target another U.S. grain co-op
Sep 27, 2021

The attack occurred on Sept. 21

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Cybercriminals targeted another U.S. agribusiness last week.

Crystal Valley, a Minnesota-based cooperative with eight grain elevators and a total storage capacity of about 25 million bushels, announced on Sept. 19 that the company received a ransomware attack.

“This attack has infected the computer systems at Crystal Valley and severely interrupted the daily operations of the company,” a statement on its website says.

Crystal Valley is encouraging customers and business partners to monitor their own financial records.

A ransomware incident is when hackers lock users out of computer networks then ask for payment before giving back access.

The attack left producers searching for other service providers.

“With the help of some other local co-ops, they’re helping grind some feed and sharing the burden,” Kevin Paap, a cash crop producer from Garden City, Minn., told Reuters.

Business has since resumed at Crystal Valley locations.

A Sept. 24 update on its website alerted customers the company is “taking grain at all elevator locations, even though it may be slower than normal as we’re doing manual hand tickets,” the statement says.

The hackers didn’t take any money and Crystal Valley can meet its financial obligations, the statement added.

Who committed the attack remains unknown.

But the attack on Crystal Valley came less than a week after New Cooperative Inc. out of Fort Dodge, Iowa, experienced its own ransomware incident.

A group with Russian ties called BlackMatter demanded $5.9 million from the Iowa co-op to regain access to 1,000 gigabytes of data and other information.

Federal lawmakers are urging farmers and cooperatives to revisit security measures to ensure a safe harvest.

“We want to make sure during this harvest that we don’t have any additional disruptions as a result of systems being hacked,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during the National Association of State Department of Agriculture’s annual meeting.

Farms.com has contacted members of the ag and cyber security communities for comment.

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