Content ID

313067

John Deere addresses the ongoing risks of living in a digital world

Valued at $13.2 billion in 2019, the smart agriculture market is projected to grow to $22 billion by 2025, according to MarketsandMarkets. As smart machines and sensors crop up on farms and data grow in quantity and scope, farming processes will become increasingly data driven. 

In order to capture the full value of data, it cannot be locked away in silos. The cloud is the fastest and least expensive way to integrate data. By 2025, 49% of the world’s data is projected to be stored in the cloud, according to International Data Corporation. 

As agriculture becomes more digitized, cybersecurity and data privacy remain the two most significant issues posed by life in a digital world. Hackers can gain access to personal and business information by discovering vulnerabilities at different layers in a system. And every type of defense is only as strong as its weakest link.

“John Deere is committed to using technology to help farmers farm better. Data is an integral part of that technology landscape,” says Lane Arthur, vice president – data applications & analytics for John Deere. “Farmers should feel confident knowing we take data security and privacy very seriously, and we are actively working to maintain farmers’ information in a safe and secure way.”

Since my last conversation with Arthur in December 2019, the digitization of agriculture has advanced quickly. Successful Farming magazine talked with Arthur recently about the company’s ongoing efforts to safeguard a farmer’s data.

SF: Talk about the ever-evolving world of digital agriculture. 

LA: How a farmer’s data is managed is a journey all of agriculture is a part of. And we must do it in a way that is not only secure but also really respects the privacy of our customers. Farmers don’t farm alone. Between the last time we talked and now, we have continued to beef up our efforts around providing a safe and secure environment for farmers to collaborate with their trusted advisers.

SF: An article surfaced recently where a researcher claimed he found two bugs in John Deere’s app and website, that if exploited, would allow hackers to find and download the personal data of the owner of Deere equipment including the owner’s name, address, equipment’s unique ID, and VIN #. How accurate is this? If accurate, how has the issue been fixed?

LA: We were made aware that we had two code misconfigurations in two separate online applications. We investigated immediately, and the misconfigurations were fixed right away. The important take away here is that our customers’ sensitive personal or business information, including financial and agronomic data, was never accessed, which is a point that didn’t come through in the article.

SF: John Deere has taken a number of proactive steps to ensure a farmer’s data is safe and secure. Changes and updates continue to be made toward those efforts. Tell us what the company has been doing to combat this ongoing challenge.

LA: Not only does John Deere have a full-time security team on staff, but we also use the latest security procedures. In addition, we use the best third-party experts to help ensure we keep our customers’ data secure, and we continue to enlarge that sphere to help us provide the latest techniques in the industry.

We release software six times a year. As part of our release process, we have a security checkpoint that asks if all procedures have been followed. If the answer is yes, it is released. If the answer is no, the software has to go back for further development. 

Using an approach called Security by Design, we also conduct regular training with our developers, so we ensure a software is designed in the most secure way possible. 

These are just some of the disciplines we’ve put into place to ensure we’re protecting a customer’s data. 

SF: Efforts like this take everyone working together. Tell me who John Deere is working with in the industry to protect a farmer’s data.

LA: As an industry, it’s very important that everyone take this seriously. I honestly see John Deere as taking the lead in this space to not only promote transparency but to also ensure the secure transfer of information back and forth. 

There are over 180 companies on our API platform today who agree on how they’re going to manage their information. Information that’s transferred back and forth is secure and encrypted. By working with these companies to help them better understand how to manage this information, it is one of the ways we are influencing the industry. 

We also hold a Develop with Deere conference every year, which focuses on digital connectivity. For the last three years, my opening speech at this event has been around the need for security and transparency. Because I feel very passionate about these topics, it’s a message I emphasize quite a bit.

In addition, we work with organizations like the American Farm Bureau who recognized Deere’s efforts on this front with its Ag Data Transparent (ADT) seal. This seal helps our customers understand how their ag data is used and assures them that the product or service provided adheres to compliance standards. John Deere proudly displays the ADT seal.

SF: What can a farmer do to protect his data?

LA: If a farmer is in the John Deere Operations Center, I would encourage him to double check who he is sharing data with. Go into Connections and look where your data is going. Reevaluate who you are sharing data with and ask yourself whether those connections are still necessary. I would also suggest he ensures employees are managing data in the right way and are being careful with it.

SF: If data is locked away in silos, agriculture can’t capture the full value of the information being collected across an operation. Talk about why it’s important for agriculture to continually move toward digitization.

LA: It really goes back to the basic tenet of farmers not farming alone. Whether it’s a seed, fertilizer, or equipment adviser, they need those experts to help them. By sharing the information in a secure way, it really enhances collaboration because they’re able to get the advice they need to continually improve how they manage their operation.

John Deere continues to provide an environment where it is easy for farmers to share their data. We also make the process as transparent as possible. For example, we just released some functionality in the John Deere Operations Center called Connections, which makes it very plain to customers who they are sharing data with. 

SF: As this space continues to evolve, what will be the biggest challenge going forward?

LA: I believe one of the biggest challenges is going to be how we continue to educate our customers and third parties on why this is important, what the value is. Some of that responsibility is on my organization to be sure we make it as easy as possible for them to understand. We have a website called Deere.com/trust, where we try to use easy-to-understand language in explaining how we manage farmers’ data.

To learn more about the industry’s efforts around data security and privacy visit:

AEM: Data and Privacy in Construction's Digital Age: What does the future hold?

AEM: Who owns equipment data? Who can access it?

American Farm Bureau Federation: Farm Bureau - Privacy and security principles for farm data

Ag Data Transparent: No turning back: Data transparency essential in 2021

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