Ransomware attack hits world’s largest meat producer

2 Jun 2021

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JBS Foods is restoring its systems after a cyberattack forced some of its operations to be suspended.

A ransomware attack has hobbled the operations of JBS Foods, the world’s largest meat producer, with the US government pointing the finger at Russia.

The Brazilian company’s operations in the US and Australia have been disrupted by the attack, with the company postponing cattle slaughters at all its US plants on Tuesday (1 June). JBS accounts for about 20pc of the US’s slaughtering of cattle and pigs for meat production.

Ransomware locks down and encrypts a victim’s IT systems and demands a ransom, typically in cryptocurrency, to decrypt the files. Hackers often threaten to release stolen information to the public if the ransom is not paid.

It is not known what demands have been made of JBS by the hackers in this attack.

“Our systems are coming back online and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat,” Andre Nogueira, chief executive of JBS USA, said.

In a statement, the company said it detected the attack on Sunday (30 May) and that its backup servers were not affected.

“The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised,” it said, adding that the “vast majority” of operations will be back in action today (2 June).

White House officials have acknowledged the attack and indicated that Russian operatives may be responsible.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said that the FBI is investigating the attack and that the US government has contacted its Russian counterparts.

“The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbour ransomware criminals,” she said.

The attack is the latest in a spate of ransomware attacks on key infrastructure and major companies. Impacts from the recent attacks on the Colonial pipeline, which disrupted fuel supply in the US, and Ireland’s health service are still being felt – though it remains unknown if the culprits behind these attacks are linked.

In the case of Colonial, the company confirmed it paid $4.4m in bitcoin to restore its services.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin