The world’s largest meat processing company has been subjected to a sophisticated cyber attack. JBS’ computer networks were hacked, resulting in some plants in Australia, Canada and the United States being temporarily shut down, affecting thousands of workers.
The company believes the ransomware attack came from a criminal group likely based in Russia, the White House said.
The attack could lead to meat shortages or higher prices for consumers. In a ransomware attack, hackers infiltrate a computer network and threaten to disrupt operations or delete files unless a ransom is paid.
The White House says the FBI has launched an investigation into the attack.
“JBS has notified the White House that the ransom demand is coming from a criminal organization that is likely based in Russia,” White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
The White House is now engaging with Russian authorities on the matter. “We hope that responsible nations are not harboring criminal extortionists,” she added.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed that the Biden administration contacted Moscow to discuss the cyber attack on JBS.
JBS: From Regional Player to International Corporation.
- JBS is the world’s largest meat supplier with more than 150 plants in 15 countries.
- The company was founded in Brazil in 1953 by rancher Jose Batista Sobrinho.
- The company now employs more than 150,000 people worldwide.
- Its customers include supermarkets and the McDonald’s chain.
- In the U.S., JBS processes nearly a quarter of the country’s beef and one-fifth of its pork.
After the attack, JBS said it had made “significant progress” in dealing with the aftermath and said it hoped that the vast majority of its plants would be operational today.
The company said Monday that it suspended all affected IT systems as soon as the attack was detected and that the backup servers had not been compromised.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents workers at the JBS plant, called on the company to ensure that employees were paid in full despite the downtime.
IT systems at today’s meatpacking plants are used at several stages, including billing and delivery.
According to the trade group Beef Central, “Supermarkets and other large end-users such as McDonald’s will be among the hardest hit customers because of their need for consistent deliveries.”
According to Bloomberg, in the U.S., where the five largest JBS beef plants are located, the attack shut down a fifth of meat production. Plants in Australia and Canada were also affected.
The attack, however, did not affect the company’s South American operations.
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Last month, fuel delivery to the southeastern U.S. was halted for days due to an extortion attack targeting Colonial Pipeline. Investigators claimed the attack was also linked to a group of hackers from Russia.
Colonial Pipeline confirmed that it paid a ransom of $4.4 million to the cybercriminal group.
The U.S. government has previously advised companies not to pay criminals for ransomware attacks because it would lead to more hacks in the future.