JBS Says Russian Hackers Likely Behind Cyberattack On World’s Biggest Meat Company

JBS accounts for 20 percent of U.S. meat production.  

A ransomware attack on JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, has forced some operations to stop production and is believed to have been carried out by cybercriminals based in Russia.

The company informed the U.S. government that the “ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on June 1.

Brazil-based JBS — a meat supplier with operations in North America, Australia, Latin America, and Europe — announced on May 31 that it was targeted by a cyber intrusion on some servers in its North American and Australian IT systems.

The company, which said it took immediate action to suspend all affected systems and is working with authorities and third-party experts to resolve the situation, said its backup servers were not affected and no data is believed to have been compromised or misused as a result of the intrusion.

JBS said that while experts resolve the issue it “may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”

The cyberattack comes just three weeks after a suspected Russia-based hacking group targeted Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. pipeline, creating gasoline shortages across parts of the U.S. east coast.

Colonial ended up paying a ransom of nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency to resolve the issue.

In a ransomware attack, a victim’s data is encrypted, making any files and systems unusable. The criminals then demand money in exchange for software decryption keys.

The attacks, often carried out by criminal syndicates operating out of Russia, have become increasingly prevalent, targeting governments and critical infrastructure organizations.

After the Colonial attack, U.S. President Joe Biden said he intends to speak directly to President Vladimir Putin about Russia’s harboring of ransomware criminals when the two meet for a bilateral summit in Geneva on June 16.

"The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals," Jean-Pierre said.

The FBI is investigating the JBS attack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reacting to any meat processing and supply problems.

The disruption to JBS’s operations is already having an impact, with reports of the company’s Australian business being paralyzed and several slaughterhouses in the United States halting production, impacting about one-fifth of the U.S. meat supply.

If the disruption continues, supply shortages could push up U.S. beef, poultry, and pork prices.

The United States has been hit in recent months by two other major cybersecurity breaches — the SolarWinds hack that compromised U.S. government agencies and private sector computer networks, and another penetration of some Microsoft email servers.

The SolarWinds hack was blamed on Russian state-backed hackers while the Microsoft breach was attributed to a Chinese cyberespionage campaign.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters

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