Cyber security for food security

Rapid adoption of sensor-driven technology in the food sector requires careful consideration of the cyber security implications for such critical infrastructure.

The challenge

The food sector is becoming increasingly digitized. Agriculture is ever more reliant upon sensor-driven digital infrastructure (AgriTech) to optimize its production processes. Such technology has shown great potential, leading to significant cost reduction and thereby profit increase, making it highly disruptive (i.e., be rapidly adopted) in a sector with historically low profitability.

For example, an automated poultry feeding system in recent case studies has shown feed cost reductions of 2-5%, translating to 40-100% increase in profitability. To stay competitive, poultry farmers competing with those who adopted such technology can do little but adopt it as well.

However, such rapid adoption does not allow for careful consideration of the requirements of such technology, the cyber security of such systems being a crucial one. The UK government considers its food sector to be a critical infrastructure, and thus ensuring its cyber security should be of fundamental importance under the new EU directive on security of network and information systems (NIS). Yet, HM Government’s most recent consultation on the directive in January 2018 excluded the food sector from its focus. In other words; the UK food sector has to ensure its cyber security itself.

What we're doing

We are studying to what extent the inability to adequately consider cyber security requirements realistically constitutes a risk to food security: does the introduction of disruptive technology open the food supply chain to new attack vectors that impact its integrity? How aware are farmers of such threats, and what, if anything, can they do to minimize their impact?

How it helps

This project will help to identify the vulnerabilities of our increasingly digital food systems.


Dirk van der Linden Lead researcher profile

Dr Dirk van der Linden, Senior Research Associate in Cyber Security


  • Cabot Institute for the Environment Innovation Fund to the value of £3,000
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