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Australian farmers urged to consider their data security

The National Farmers' Federation has warned the farm sector will be exposed to disruption unless farmers take an active interest in how their data is managed and secured.

Speaking from the FutureAG conference in Melbourne today, NFF Data Policy Manager Gabi Ceregra said the increasing digitization of Australian farms brought enormous benefits but also risks that needed to be managed.

"Farmers are using a growing number of apps and digital technologies to increase the productivity of their farms. What that means is, as an industry, we're seeing a surge in the volume of data held in the cloud, and that data is becoming more and more valuable to farmers. As we become more reliant on digital technology, we also become more vulnerable if that data is misused. That could be in the form of a cyber-attack, but also by not understanding the business model of the platform you're using and how they'll share and commercialize your data."

Professor Robin Doss is the Director of the Centre for Cyber Resilience and Trust at Deakin University. He warned that agriculture needed to recognize the importance of cybersecurity and the reality of cyber risks.

"We've seen in recent years with major breaches from Optus or Medibank making headlines just how prevalent data breaches have become. As industry embraces new forms of automation into the future, the consequences of a breach will be magnified, so now is the time to get effective systems in place."

"Some recent incidents have involved major multi-billion-dollar companies with huge IT resources. On the other hand, most farms don't have an IT department, so keeping data secure will come down in part to industry-wide initiatives. That's where the Farm Data Code can play an important role."

Launched in 2020 with certification commencing in 2023, the Australian Farm Data Code assesses providers against industry standards including data security, transparency, farmer control and portability – aiming to recognize best practice providers for doing the right thing.

"We currently have six software providers certified against the Code and a strong pipeline of companies undergoing assessment," Ms Ceregra said.

"What's critical is that farmers help drive this change and challenge their providers to lift their standards and get certified. Certification means the NFF has done the hard work for you, with an independent expert panel reviewing a provider's data standards and processes to ensure compliance with the Code. Our data security is only as strong as our weakest link. If you're entrusting your data to a provider not certified against the Code, then you don't have the benefit of that independent assessment."

"The message to farmers is, look for the Farm Data Code certified logo. If your provider doesn't have it, ask them to get certified. As an industry comprised of small to medium businesses, our data security is a team sport, and every farmer has a role to play," Ms Ceregra concluded.

To learn more about the Farm Data Code and see a list of certified providers, click here.


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