“Crime Scene: Peasant Death”: How realistic are animal welfare hackers?

In "Crime Scene: Farmers' Death", the digital process control in large farmer Max Winkler's pigsty keeps going crazy.

“Crime Scene: Peasant Death”: How realistic are animal welfare hackers?

In "Crime Scene: Farmers' Death", the digital process control in large farmer Max Winkler's pigsty keeps going crazy. Behind this are hackers from the animal protection organization “Initiative Pro Tier” who have targeted the meat producer.

Such a scenario is not unrealistic. Digital technology is also increasingly finding its way into agriculture - and the risks of cyber attacks in this area are rising accordingly. In fact, there have been isolated hacker attacks on agricultural infrastructure, including pig farms, in recent years.

A large proportion of the cases are probably attempts at blackmail by criminal hackers using so-called "ransomware" - this involves using a crypto Trojan to encrypt data on affected computers and thus make them inaccessible. The cybercriminals then demand a ransom for decryption. Other methods can include DoS (Denial-of-Service) attacks, in which servers are overwhelmed with requests in order to temporarily paralyze business operations.

In contrast to actors who only have their financial gain in mind, so-called "hacktivists" launch cyber attacks to fight for political, social or ethical goals - such as animal protection. Such attacks are usually not only aimed at disrupting operations, but above all at publicly denouncing grievances and illegitimate business practices in order to put pressure on the attacked companies and bring about change.

A case comparable to the cyber attack in “Crime Scene: Farmers' Death” occurred in July 2023 in the Canadian province of Ontario. As the trade journal "The Western Producer" reports, hacktivists there paralyzed the digital network of a pig farm and claimed to have video recordings that came from the company's hacked surveillance system. According to the paper, as a prerequisite for the network to be released again, they demanded a public statement from the owners in which they should admit to alleged animal cruelty on the farm.

A much larger case occurred in the summer of 2021, when hackers paralyzed networks of the world's largest meat processor, JBS Foods, for days. However, as the New York Times reported, among others, it was probably not animal welfare activists behind the attack, but rather profit-oriented cybercriminals. In the end, the company paid the blackmailers a ransom of eleven million dollars to get its systems up and running again.

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