If you think that because you live in a rural location, you’re safe from all of the nasty things that happen to other people who have computers connected to the Internet, then you‘re in for an unpleasant surprise.

Let’s just think about foxes for a minute. Foxes are indiscriminate – they’ll eat anything they come across from pheasants to fruit. When they get amongst hens in a confined space they will kill as many as they can in a frenzied attack. They roam around the countryside causing chaos. They’re wild animals and it’s what they do.

So what on earth has this got to do with the Internet? Well the fox sees anything it can get at as a legitimate target. If you’re connected to the Internet, then so are you; but instead of foxes, you’ve got to protect yourself against hackers – a very real threat indeed. Just like the fox, they are silent, unseen, swift, and cause chaos – this is what they do. They are totally unselective and wander around the Internet looking for their ‘prey’. By virtue of the fact you’re connected to the Internet – no matter who or where you are – if a hacker can find a way into your computer system they will get in and cause chaos. Borders, boundaries and geographic location are meaningless.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Ah but, I’ve got all of that covered”, or “I’ve got no information worth stealing”. OK, but remember the fox? Indiscriminate attacks? Hackers simply don’t care. They break in because they can and they don’t necessarily want to take anything. Quite often they just want to mess with things, destroying data, infecting your machine with bugs or viruses, or even hijacking it and your broadband connection for their own criminal activity. Just like the fox, you wouldn’t necessarily know they were there until the damage is done. Sly and cunning stuff.

More and more farms are now depending on IT to help improve the day to day running of many different functions. Accounts, banking, livestock and dairy management, GIS/GPS systems and crop placement – the list is growing steadily. Just imagine if you logged into your computer one morning and all of that had gone. Vanished. Along with all of you emails, personal data and records. All over the UK businesses and individuals are falling foul of this new menace – they aren’t targeted; they’re simply connected to the Internet.

It’s not really a question of if you’ll become a victim, but when.

Unfortunately, the situation can’t be improved using packs of hounds or a shotgun. But you can take simple and cost-effective steps to make sure that the investment that you’ve made in IT is protected and continues to work well. Just as with foxes and other kinds of thieves, the first thing to do is make it more difficult for them to gain access to your property by installing the correct hardware and software to make sure your systems are as safe as possible. It won’t cost a fortune, and the wasted investment, time and heartbreak it could save you is invaluable.

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