On-farm cybersecurity campaign gets backing

Glacier FarmMedia to link up with federally-funded project

A campaign to assess, reinforce and promote cybersecurity across Canada’s ag sector — partly through this website and its sister publications and events — has been tapped to receive multi-year federal funding.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on March 25 announced over $500,000 over four years through the federal Cyber Security Co-operation Program for the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance’s (CSKA) Cyber Security Capacity in Canadian Agriculture project.

Glacier FarmMedia (GFM), owner of this website and publications including Country Guide, Grainews and the Western Producer, announced April 6 it will collaborate with CSKA to further extend the ag project’s reach by “engaging with the sector across its media platforms and events to boost awareness and promote improved security tactics.”

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CSKA, a not-for-profit organization set up in Saskatoon in 2015, works with private- and public-sector organizations to research, evaluate, train and promote in the field of community safety.

CSKA’s multi-year project is expected to connect with sector stakeholders to “understand the needs of Canadian producers related to cybersecurity, and to engage and inform the sector and federal and provincial levels of government about these needs and opportunities to address them.”

“The rapidly evolving cyber threat environment within which Canada’s agricultural sector operates is outpacing the abilities of many farm and other agricultural operations to adapt and respond,” CSKA CEO Cal Corley said in a federal release.

The ag project, Corley said, “will help better understand and support the sector in closing critical gaps.”

“With the growing digitization of agriculture, the range and impacts of vulnerabilities are becoming more numerous and more complex, and it is becoming hard for operators to keep pace with the rate of change,” CSKA lead investigator Dr. Janos Botschner said in GFM’s separate release.

“Yet, little work has been done to understand and address cybersecurity within this ecosystem, and from the perspectives of farmers.”

Botschner, a Guelph-based behavioural scientist and public safety consultant, said CSKA’s project “will help to address this gap in ways that emphasize the needs of the family businesses that represent almost three-quarters of Canadian agricultural production.”

“Canadian agriculture is a critical and increasingly interconnected service, and it is a key part of our economy, trade and food supply,” Blair said in a separate federal release. CSKA’s ag project, he said, “will help foster collaboration and protect cyber systems from compromise.”

The project team is expected to bring in expertise from social sciences, food security, public policy, engineering and information technology, national security and community safety/well-being.

“The depth of relationships and experience that Glacier FarmMedia is bringing to our project will amplify our opportunity to make a difference for Canada’s food security, and for the families and businesses that are at the heart of its role as a critical infrastructure and contributor to Canadians’ health and well-being,” CSKA CEO Cal Corley said in GFM’s release.

“We see this as an extension of our commitment to rural economic vitality and to Canada’s reputation as a trusted partner in the global food supply chain,” Winnipeg-based GFM’s president Bob Willcox said in the same release.

The five-year, $10.3 million federal Cyber Security Co-operation Program that’s backing CSKA’s project was set up in 2019 as part of the National Cyber Security Strategy.

That program’s latest call for proposals, now closed, was budgeted for up to $4.2 million for the period from April 1 this year to the end of March 2024, and was focused on subjects including the “security and resilience of Canadian systems,” “an innovative and adaptive cyber ecosystem” and “effective leadership, governance and collaboration.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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