How to work in cyber security AND agriculture

Smart ag

The peaceful countryside hides a new battle between hackers and cyber security professionals. Do you want to join the fight?

Our increasing population needs to be fed without damaging the planet even further.
For farmers, this means one thing: leaning on digital tech, a trend known as “smart ag” to
help make their farms more efficient.

Smart ag uses connected sensors, big data, cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
to allow farms to produce more food without stinting on sustainability. From the fields to the barnyard, farmers are analysing data to plan, make systems more efficient and take action against unexpected events.

Exposed environments

As more tech is adopted, however, hackers see more opportunities to attack. Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting farms and their suppliers and customers. For example, in 2020, Australia and New Zealand’s wool selling system was crippled for eight days by hackers demanding AU$8 million ransom.

Criminals like these – hired by competitors, criminal syndicates or hostile foreign governments – represent a serious threat to our food supply and security. But this also means more career opportunities for people who want to stop hackers in their tracks.

RELATED: 5 signs you should work in cyber security

Secure the land

A job in agriculture security could include being a cyber security specialist for a large agricultural biz – designing, deploying and managing the business’ information networks. Or maybe a pen tester, where you’d be responsible for things like hacking the system yourself to see where vulnerabilities lie.

Similar roles are available in the companies and organisations developing and producing ag
tech. Fun job descriptions would be things like making meat processing robots unhackable.

Not all of the roles are technical though. “You don’t need to be a software developer to be a cyber security expert,” says Damien Manuel, director of Cyber Security, Research and
Innovation Centre (CSRI) at Deakin University.

RELATED: Farming by numbers – maths + agriculture

Teaching tech

“If you have a passion for people you could go into the education side to improve cyber
security awareness and make people safer online,” Damien says.

It’s a tad more complex than just thinking cows and computers, but like anything tech-related, the ag industry needs protecting and the opportunities are paddock-sized!

Start your career here

Cyber + agriculture study

  • Bachelor of Science (Cyber Security), Edith Cowan University
  • Bachelor of Agriculture and Technology, Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Cybersecurity Engineering), Victoria University of Wellington

Cyber + agriculture jobs

  • Information security specialist: $60K–$148K
  • Agricultural technician: $55K (Average salary)
  • Penetration tester: $56K–$125K*

Salaries according to payscale.com

This story originally appears in Careers with STEM: Cyber Security 2021. 

Ben Skuse

Author: Ben Skuse

Ben Skuse is a UK-based former mathematician turned professional science writer, who has written for the Careers with STEM magazines for over 5 years. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSkuseSciComm.

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