May 28 — A new risk analysis indicates that modern “smart” farm machinery could come under threat by malicious cyber hackers, placing the global food supply chain at risk.
The analysis, published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, describes how hackers could leverage flaws in agricultural hardware, especially those associated with autonomous machines.
Next generation agriculture
Some contend that intelligent, autonomous ag-bots are already running large farms. Companies are already planning for the next generation of autonomous agricultural tools and decision support systems that could make human-led crop production a relic of the past.
However, at present, few appear to be asking questions about risks associated with the rapid deployment of agricultural artificial intelligence.
According to the UK and US governments, the number of cyber attacks is growing. New technological developments in the agricultural space need to be properly tested in experimental settings to prevent negative consequences; including cyber attacks.
Security researchers have catalogued a series of risks that require consideration during the development of new artificial intelligence-based tools for agriculture. Risks include ‘poisoning’ datasets, shutting down sprayers, and disrupting autonomous drones and disabling robotic harvesters.
Securing the global food supply chain
Of course, a confluence of factors affect the security of the global food supply chain, and cyber security reflects just a single dimension of the industry’s overall security tableau.
To shore up cyber security, some advocate for machine development and manufacturing organizations to hire ethical hackers, who can help uncover security weaknesses and failings in the early stages of machine design and production.
An estimated two billion people are affected by food insecurity. Artificial intelligence-based technologies and precision agriculture retain the potential to improve lives on a dramatic scale.
Yet, as these technologies see further development and expanded use, experts must closely consider potential risks, eliminating them to the greatest extent possible in early technology design stages.
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