Iowa grain cooperative experiences cyberattack

Iowa grain cooperative experiences cyberattack
Sep 22, 2021

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The group BlackMatter demanded $5.9 million to unlock New Cooperative Inc.’s data

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

An Iowa grain cooperative is the latest U.S. agribusiness be a victim of a foreign cyberattack.

Fort Dodge-based New Cooperative Inc. went offline earlier this week after its systems had been illegally accessed.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively taken our systems offline to contain the threat, and we can confirm it has been successfully contained,” a spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.

The group responsible for the attack appears to be BlackMatter, an organization with ties to Russia.

BlackMatter hack

The group has apparently hacked into 1000GB of New Cooperative’s data, according to DarkFeed, a deep web intelligence feed.

BlackMatter is also demanding a $5.9 million ransom, Allan Liska, a ransomware expert, confirmed to ZDNet.

The compromised data includes financial information, legal and executive information, and the source code for SOILMAP, the company’s input management software tool.

Screenshots from what appears to be BlackMatter’s website lists areas and industries it will not attack.

BlackMatter rules

The list includes hospitals, non-profit companies and critical infrastructure facilities.

The U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency lists food and agriculture as one of 16 critical infrastructure sectors.

But a conversation believed to be between New Coop and BlackMatter show the hackers don’t think the ag group falls under the critical infrastructure banner.

“Your website says you do not attack critical infrastructure,” someone from New Coop appears to have said to a BlackMatter representative, photos from DarkFeed show. “We are critical infrastructure – we (are) intertwined with the food supply chain in the U.S. If we are not able to recover very shortly, there is going to be very very public disruption to the grain, pork and chicken supply chain.”

But because the business earns profits, they do not fall under critical infrastructure, according to BlackMatter.

“You do not fall under the rules, everyone will only incur losses, everything is tied to the commerce, the critical ones mean the vital needs of a person, and you earn money,” the group responded.

Lawmakers in Iowa are ready to help New Coop.

“Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig has reached out to company leaders to offer his support,” Keely Coppess, communications director with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, told in an email.

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