What the John Deere tractor hack reveals about cyber threats to food supply


Hacking a tractor to install a video game may seem like a funny prank, but it has confirmed security experts’ fears about the vulnerability of our food supply to cyber attacks.

Australian security researcher Sick Codes hacked a John Deere 4240 display and installed the vintage 1990s video game DOOM demonstrating his control of the system, to encourage agricultural technology developers to take security more seriously.

But the revelation that the display used code available openly on the internet and unsecured operating systems sent a shudder through security experts, who feared the boom in AgTech left agriculture wide open to attacks that could make food more expensive and harder to supply.

In a statement, John Deere said the hack, which involved physically accessing a unit that was not connected to the internet, did not put any customer or dealer’s equipment, networks, or data at risk.

Palo Alto Networks is one of the largest cyber security companies in the world, specialising in preparedness, threat detection, and response.

Asia Pacific vice-president and regional chief security officer Sean Duca said developers sometimes overlooked security in the mistaken belief their devices were not a target.

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