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Stay One Step Ahead: How to Shield Yourself from Fraud and Cybercriminals

Unfortunately, fraud is more prevalent than ever. It's crucial to protect your operation and income from cybercriminals. Simply locking the doors and limiting outside access are not enough. You need a strong cybersecurity protection and response plan for your critical computer infrastructure and information.

Over the past few years, businesses across all industries have reported an uptick in vendor impersonations and wire fraud attempts. Fraudsters will impersonate a vendor, instructing a client to change wire destinations, ultimately stealing the funds. They may also uncover email addresses to change wire address information. Check fraud, including stealing checks and check washing, has also been on the rise, causing individuals to lose thousands of dollars.

The good news is that you can never be too safe when it comes to taking the necessary precautions to protect your hard-earned assets and business. Here are techniques to incorporate into your farming business practices to safeguard against identity thieves, hackers and cybercriminals:

• Protect your accounts

Create separate bank and credit card accounts for your business and personal life. This way, if hackers get their hands on one account, they won’t have access to the other.

• Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Use an authentication method that requires two or more verification factors, like a one-time pin in addition to a password.

• Create strong passphrases with a password manager

Use a password manager (LastPass, Bitwarden, etc.) to securely store unique and complex passphrases that are difficult for hackers to guess.

• Protect yourself against phishing scams and identity theft

Always verify the sender of emails or phone calls before providing sensitive information. Never provide your passwords or passphrases to anyone. Download files, apps and plugins only from trusted sources, as malware can be disguised or hidden in legitimate software.

• Use protective controls and architecture

Properly configure and secure internet-facing network devices, disable unused or unnecessary network ports and protocols, encrypt network traffic, and disable unused network services and devices.

• Provide employee training

If your operation is large enough, provide annual security awareness training to employees and provide a method for reporting suspicious behavior.

Implementing these tips will help lessen the chance of hackers accessing your information. However, if you or your operation is a victim of a data breach, follow these steps to minimize the effects:

• Contain the breach

Preserve evidence by disconnecting your internet connection, disabling remote access, maintaining firewall settings, installing legitimate pending security updates and changing all passwords.

• Report the crime

Immediately contact your financial institution(s) and credit card holders if you discover a fraudulent incident. Report the attack to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which will forward the information to enforcement authorities. If you or your farm is the victim of a data breach, ransomware attack or network intrusion, contact your closest FBI field office or report it to

Thank you to Andrew Geil, Compeer Financial principal security analyst, for contributing to this article.

This article was originally printed in the Fall 2023 edition of Compeer Financial's Cultivate magazine.   

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