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GM crop giant Monsanto hit by data breach

Genetically modified seed and agricultural firm latest to report data security attack.

By CBR Staff Writer

American seed and genetically modified crop pioneer Monsanto Co. confirmed a security breach in one of its servers, which exposed some customer credit-card information and employee data.

The breach occurred at the company’s Precision Planting center in Tremont, Illinois, in late March. Over 1,600 people have been affected, including 900 customers, 300 employees, and 400 dealers, reports Agri Pulse.

In an emailed statement, Christy Toedebusch, a spokeswoman for Climate Corp., a Monsanto unit that manages its farm-technology products and manages the Precision Planting business said, "We believe this unauthorized access was not an attempt to steal customer information and are not aware of any misuse of the information impacted by the incident."

Toedebusch confirmed that the breach has not affected any farming data collected by Precision Planting equipment, such as information on specific farmers’ crop yields or planting practices.

The company has already apologized for the incident in a letter sent to customers on 14 May and begun an investigation. It also offered to pay for the credit monitoring of affected customers for up to a year.

Big giants across industries, including the Defense Department, witnessed massive data breaches since last year, which cost billions of dollars in losses.

For Monsanto, the breach has occurred at a time when it is attempting to increase its revenues from genetically modified seeds and pesticides by pitching data services to farmers. These data services require farmers to disclose information on crops, which has been a cause of concern for few farm groups, who questioned the security and management of data.

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Monsanto is already in touch with legal authorities on the issue.

Separately, several farm organizations earlier began discussions on how companies like Monsanto, DuPont, Deere & Co. and others will protect and secure data collected on a wide range of farming practices.

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