From One to Many: A Brief History of the IT-ISAC Food and Ag SIG

By Scott Algeier

I’ll admit it. It is a bit odd at first. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.

I am, of course, referring to the fact that IT-ISAC Board includes representatives from three Food and Agriculture companies. Why would the Information Technology ISAC include members from the Food and Agriculture Industry?

To be honest, I had the same question when I received the first application for IT-ISAC membership from a Food and Agriculture company. But it soon became clear that there was clear, mutual benefit in welcoming companies from the Food and Agriculture industry. What started as a lone application from a company wondering where it could best engage in collaborative information sharing has turned into a key component of the IT-ISAC mission.

Companies in the Food and Agriculture industry run complex Information Technology systems and rely on IT for critical business operations. While deemed critical infrastructure, they have no sector specific information sharing forum, and building one from scratch would require extensive time and money. At the same time, a core part of the IT-ISAC mission is to provide a diverse community that enables collaboration and serves as a force multiplier for IT companies and those that leverage IT. It was at this junction between need and opportunity that the IT-ISAC Food and Agriculture Special Interest Group (SIG) was born.

Instead of having to wait a year or more to establish their own organization and then build out its operational capabilities, these companies can immediately engage with an established ISAC comprised of leading technology companies. Food and Agriculture SIG members are full members of the IT-ISAC. They have access to all core member benefits, including access to the TruSTAR platform, our Technical Committee, and our regular analytic reporting.

In addition to this, however, they have a forum to discuss topics specific to their industry. There are threats and threat actors that are unique to the industry. The SIG provides these companies with an industry-only, trusted forum to collaborate on resolving unique security challenges.

We recently invited SIG members and guests to an in-person meeting in St. Louis where we discussed how the SIG can continue to add value to members. These companies asked us to focus on the following:

· Sharing effective threat mitigation practices: The industry faces many common challenges, and members see the SIG as a valuable forum to learn how other companies have addressed specific challenges.

· Thought Leadership: In addition to sharing among members, there is a desire among SIG members to increase the level of security throughout the Food and Agriculture Industry. To that end, the SIG is exploring the development of white papers on various security topics impacting the industry.

· Cyber Threat Sharing: Of course, a core value of the IT-ISAC is the sharing of cyber threat indicators. Through the SIG, we will continue to encourage the sharing of cyber threat indicators among members and help them better leverage the TruSTAR platform for sharing within the SIG.

I am very grateful for the support we have received from the Food and Agriculture industry and members of the SIG. I specifically would like to thank Steve Stellmacher from Bunge, Jim O’Conner and Vince Peeler from Cargill, and Brian Hall and Don Bacon from Conagra for their participation as Foundation Level Board members. Their positions on the IT-ISAC Board ensures that managing and growing the SIG will continue to be a key organizational priority.

If you are in the Food and Agriculture industry and are looking to engage with peer companies, I strongly encourage you to consider joining the IT-ISAC and participating in the Food and Agriculture Special Interest Group. You can view information about the SIG at www.it-isac.org/special-interest-groups and by emailing us at membership@it-isac.org.

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