FBI Warns Farmers About Cyberattacks … Not About Food Plant Explosions

April 25, 2022
Far right conspiracy news source starts rumors about food plant fires.

In one of those conspiracy-fueled fake news stories, the FBI this month did indeed warn farmers and agricultural businesses about cyberattacks but it did not draw a connection between cyber terrorism and recent fires at American food plants.

At least one news medium mysteriously linked the potential for cyberattacks on food & beverage companies to what it called "increasing media coverage of recent fires and explosions at food processing plants across the United States." The story got repeated a few times, but our efforts to find documentation and the source, other than that particular news outlet, came up empty.

That news medium is considered far-right and a spreader of conspiracy stories, according to Wikipedia. In a 557-word story on the subject, just 12 words made the connection, although the "news" story did bring up an April 13 ammonia-triggered explosion at a Taylor Farms processing facility near Salinas, Calif., (not unusual) and even a small plane crashing into a General Mills plant just east of Atlanta.

In an April 20 memo titled "Ransomware Attacks on Agricultural Cooperatives Potentially Timed to Critical Seasons Summary," the Federal Bureau of Investigation did warn "ransomware actors may be more likely to attack agricultural cooperatives during critical planting and harvest seasons, disrupting operations, causing financial loss, and negatively impacting the food supply chain.

"The FBI noted ransomware attacks during these seasons against six grain cooperatives during the fall 2021 harvest and two attacks in early 2022 that could impact the planting season by disrupting the supply of seeds and fertilizer," the memo continued. "Cyber actors may perceive cooperatives as lucrative targets with a willingness to pay due to the time-sensitive role they play in agricultural production."

We're posting this non-news story because we received one inquiry about it. We've asked the FBI for comment, and when we get it we'll update this story. By the way, our magazine's March cover story was "How Cybercriminals Break Into Food & Beverage Plants." That's real journalism.

Farmers: beware. Food & beverage processors: Just stay vigilant.