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Iowa agribusiness NEW Cooperative Inc. hit with ransomware attack

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In the latest cyberattack on American food supply, Iowa-based farm services provider NEW Cooperative Inc. was the victim of a ransomware attack. While details of the breach are still being released, the cooperative had to take its systems offline on Monday.

NEW Cooperative is a member-owned farmer cooperative with 60 operating locations in Iowa. The cooperative offers grain services as well as feed, fertilizer, crop protection, and seed resources. The company has a MAPS department that utilizes soil mapping, site-specific field management, and precision technologies.

The Wall Street Journal reported that security researchers are linking the attack to a newly launched ransomware group called BlackMatter, which is demanding $5.9 million to unlock the NEW Cooperative’s data.

The most significant recent cyberattack on the food supply chain was over the summer, when meat processor JBS USA paid $11 million to REvil, a Russian-linked ransomware gang. It is believed that BlackMatter has ties to REvil.

“COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of global supply chains, leading to shortages in raw materials, consumer goods, parts and more. A cyberattack like the one that was carried out against NEW Cooperative Inc, if successful, has the potential to completely upend the global food supply chain and leave millions around the world hungry,” explained Paul Martini, the CEO of cloud cybersecurity company iboss. “Human error is often still the culprit behind attacks like these and organizations need to prioritize protecting their employees and devices no matter where they are located to prevent them.”

Online attackers target companies that have weak or otherwise porous cybersecurity systems. Once an attack happens and a ransom demand is made over the release of the data back to the company, professional negotiators step in to help reach a resolution.

According to the website CyberScoop, NEW Cooperative’s negotiator said that the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would be demanding answers within 12 hours.

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