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Iowa Grain Co-Op Targeted by Russian Hackers in $5.9M Ransomware Attack

On September 3rd the U.S. FBI warned that Russian hackers were targeting agricultural producers - and it wasn’t long before the threat became real.

A Russian cybercrime cell called BlackMatter has targeted New Cooperative -- a Fort Dodge, Iowa-based, member-owned corn and soy cooperative -- demanding $5.9 million under threat of releasing proprietary business data.

The cooperative managed to contain the breach and developed a workaround enabling the group to continue accepting grain shipments and distributing feed. But to do so, the company had to take its computer network offline to isolate the break, and shut down its soil mapping software control system that optimizes irrigation and fertilizer application. Due to these measures, farmers have reverted to using paper scale tickets to log their grain deliveries.

BlackMatter threatened to publish a terabyte of the cooperative’s data including R&D documentation, invoices, and the source code for its soil mapping technology if the ransom was not received by September 25. Luckily, New Cooperative was able to create a workaround limiting the threat, and represents a relatively small portion of Iowa’s harvest. But that’s not always the case.

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