After shutting down operations at JBS, the world’s largest meat producer, and the Colonial Pipeline, Russian hackers have once again come for American agriculture. This week, the group BlackMatter targeted via a ransomware attack the member-owned farming collective New Cooperative in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The Washington Post reported that BlackMatter froze the computer networks responsible for the feeding schedules of millions of livestock animals. Fortunately, the cooperative found a workaround to transport grains to farms dependent on the feed, limiting the breach’s impact on the commodities market. But BlackMatter was still threatening to release co-op data and withhold decryption unless it received a $5.9 million ransom payment. National security experts, meanwhile, are fretting about the long-term effects of the hack: If the ransom is paid, it’s all too likely that agriculture producers will become an increasingly viable target for future hacks. “It’s a new form of terrorism,” one economist said.
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