Pesticide giant Monsanto has announced that the servers of their Precision Planting division have been compromised, and the information of 1,300 customers and employees were lost to an unknown ring of attackers during a day-long breach.
Taking place back in March, the Precision Planting division is responsible for manufacturing specialized farming equipment used to more efficiently distribute pesticides and fungicides in industrial agriculture operations in the Midwest.
Monsanto has come under fire in the past few years as a champion of the much-maligned GMO movement, and it’s not a surprise that hackers would target the company, and more specifically, the employees who help to support its operations which many view as a crime against humanity and the basic genetic makeup of plant life from around the world.
Senior council for the Precision Planting division Rueben Shelton clarified the details of the event in a letter to the Office of the Attorney General Maryland.
“We believe this unauthorised access was not an attempt to steal customer information; however, it is possible that files containing personal information may have been accessed and therefore we are making this notification,” Shelton said.
According to a statement to the agriculture news site Agri-Pulse, no customer farming data or numbers were stolen, as the bulk of that data is stored on a separate server.
Monsanto, contradictory to its nature, has kindly offered victims of the attack a year of free credit monitoring services, and has promised to reimburse anyone who has their financial accounts plundered as a result of their IT incompetence.
“Files on the affected servers contained personal information, including customer names, addresses, tax identification numbers (which in some cases could be Social Security Numbers), and (in some cases) financial account information.
Additionally, some HR data was stored on the servers, including some W2 tax forms that contained employee name, address, and Social Security numbers and (for a small number of employees) driver’s license numbers.”
This isn’t the first time the company has been targeted by hacktivists either. In 2011, Anonymous launched a campaign against similar servers which contained the personal details of over 2,500 Monsanto employees, many of whom are still feeling the effects of the attack to this day.
Additionally, just last month members of the group #operationgreenrights declared they had taken a cache of around 1,800 usernames and passwords hostage from the Monsanto website, however those claims have yet to be verified by anyone at the company or by third-party analysts.
No matter which side of the GMO debate you fall onto, most of the people who work for the company at the lower levels aren’t contributing to decisions made by the higher ups and members of the board. To compromise their information for the purpose of harassment or otherwise only turns them into a sympathetic figure, rather than the brutally efficient chemical manufacturer we know them as today.