Remote businesses such as farms face unique threats to web security.
"When you understand the dynamics of agriculture, it clearly becomes a natural target for crooks," says Alisdair Faulkner, chief product officer for ThreatMetrix, which develops software to combat internet and other digital crime.
Rabobank Australia and New Zealand (RABO) just finished a deployment of a ThreatMetrix product called TrustDefender Client that locates and isolates malware that's been installed on a user's computer. The bank, which serves a large percentage of food and agricultural businesses in Australia and New Zealand, is currently pitching the product to its clients.
"As with all cyber fraud threats such as malware, its presence continues to grow… [this technology] helps us to encourage our clients to engage and share in managing this threat," says Alister Bennett, head of product management and development at Rabobank Australia and New Zealand. Bennett did not comment on plans to use the technology in other markets, such as North America, where it has a footprint in agricultural lending that includes a substantial presence in California.
Rabobank's deployment comes as the malware threat continues to expand. Aite Group says the annual production of malware is currently more than 25 million strains, and is expected to reach 87 million by the end of 2015. Cybercrooks are also getting more creative in attacks on the user's end.
Faulkner says that compared to other industries and consumers, agricultural businesses store and move money differently, and in a way that makes farmers vulnerable to malware installations and other electronic fraud that targets personal computers. "Agricultural businesses are quite remote, so there may be a bandwidth issues that make [installing software patches] difficult. Also, you have users that may not be as tech savvy or have as much access to the latest technology," Faulkner says.
Faulkner says the nature of agricultural business is also attractive to thieves. Consumers and other small businesses move money in small amounts, meaning crooks have to steal from a large number of users to make the crime worthwhile. In the case of farming, crooks can target a smaller amount of business, or even a single business. "Agricultural businesses often do a million dollar transfer or a ten million dollar transfer to buy a piece of machinery. So there's a lot of money moving around. Also, the accounts have a large cash balance around the time of the harvest," Faulkner says.
Like technology provided by other companies that target the malware prevention space, such as Guardian Analytics and Trusteer, ThreatMetrix assumes that most computers have already been infected with malware. To use the security product, businesses download software to their personal computers. The software validates websites and checks firewall and antivirus status, and alerts the users of any malware or other suspicious intrusions before authentication. It also searches for malware on the PC and attempts to remove it. User sessions that involve financial transactions are sequestered to prevent connections to unauthorized servers. A "safe and secure mode" temporarily disables unidentified software to secure web transactions.
Bennett says that by offering security on the client end, the bank can engage its clients in sharing in the effort to mitigate the fraud threat despite tech gaps that may exist for remote businesses. "As a corporation we have a number of protective measures in place, while the average small to medium sized enterprise does not have this specialist capability," he says.
And while many of the businesses are remote, Bennett does not anticipate challenges in getting clients to deploy the protection. It's offering TrustDefender Client as a free download, and Bennett said client uptake thus far is near 80%.
"Client awareness is very important, and we have found that almost all small to medium sized enterprises, if taken on the journey will embrace solutions for the protection of their information, including banking sessions," Bennett says.