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MAXIMUM SECURITY: When it comes to data protection, it starts on your own computer. WIth today's equipment and tech, that's important to know.

Equipment, tech and security

Data breaches may happen, but when it comes to evolving ag tech safety begins at home

In my role covering ag technology I have a lot of great conversations with industry experts. One idea that occurred to me lately was the rising concern about data privacy and data security. First, I want to go on the record saying that your information is more valuable if you’re putting it to use not just storing it. Second, how you deploy that information, whether in an aggregated form or in some other way is up to you.

But the biggest concern is the idea of security of the information from people who shouldn’t see it at all. Most ag data systems require farmer permission to get access to information for machine data, yield maps, as-applied information and the like. But what are you doing to make sure no one can get at it.

No chain is stronger than its weakest link. Are you the weak link?

During one of those recent conversations a tech expert asked what I thought the easiest access to someone’s data was and my answer was “on their computer.” While that’s simplistic, it’s true. That information stored in your office desktop is only as good as your personal security measures and chances are one of the soft spots is that password to your computer. Or those passwords you set up to services you use.

While password security sounds like commonsense, I’m pretty sure we’re lazy consumers. But it turns out we may all be a little lazy about passwords. A study from 2018 conducted by survey firm Vanson-Bourne in partnership with Sailpoint – an information tech firm – found that 55% of IT leaders have reused the same password throughout their work and personal life. Another 28% used a pet’s name, another easy guess.

Are you the weak link with Password as your password? Is it Welcome1? This sounds silly, but you have a lot of information on your computer that has value to you and your farm. From financials to agronomics and all that high-tech stuff you rely on has some protection provided you step up with a stronger password.

Stronger password, simple approach

There’s even new work that shows a group of longer random words is harder for outsiders to crack than those weird Upper case, special character combos we’re often asked or required to provide. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has found that all those special characters just make your password hard to remember, but no harder to crack by outsiders.

Yet you have valuable information to protect. NIST recommends using nonsense words in sequence that you can remember but would be impossible to hack. A combination like tractor battery staple fence (tractorbatterystaplefence) may be nearly uncrackable, but could be easier for you to remember. It’s a thought.

At a minimum you should be doing the following:

1 – backing up data to the cloud regularly where you have a strong password no one can crack. That serves two purposes. First, it’s no longer just stored on your property where fire, wind or flood could wipe it out. Second, cloud providers have strong data protection tools, so it will be safer than on your office machine.

2 – change that password regularly. Have you had the same password on the computer for a year? Time for a change. Perhaps every daylight savings day (start or finish) you change your password just after you change the batteries in your smoke detector.

3 – Consider multi-factor authentication. This works great if you have a smart phone. With this, you can’t get into a program without getting a second code through the cloud. I use it for my personal Facebook page to avoid having to tell my friends “Ignore my requests I’ve been hacked.”

4 – look at updating your computer. The latest software you’re using needs a good foundation on which to operate. Windows 10 is far better than Window XP and the company keeps working to improve it.

That rolling computer, I mean tractor, you’ll be using this spring is capturing a lot of information. With a few simple tricks you can make sure the only eyes that get on that data are in the heads of people you’ve given permission for viewing.

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