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Cyberattack on JBS, World’s Leading Meat Packers

JBS Greeley Beef Plant, USA
Japan Times

A Brazil-based meat packaging company, JBS, encountered a cyberattack last Monday. Founded in Brazil by Jose Batista Sobrinho in 1953, JBS has established itself as the largest meat supplier in the world. It has invested in 150 plants in 15 different nations. Mainly, supermarkets and fast food outlets are the prime customers of JBS.

Meat processing workers inside the JBS plants before cyber attack

The cyberattack forced JBS to shut down the facilities across North America and Australia. In Australia, the hackers locked the system which handled the quality assurance phase in meat processing. In the US, the cyberattack primarily affected meat packaging plants of Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texans, and Iowa. While other state facilities also felt minor disruptions after the attack. However, the facilities in Mexico and UK are operating as usual.

Post attack efforts

The company was quick to notify the White House of the cyberattack (ransomware attack). Ransomware is a form of malware that involves file encryption or locked-out functionalities of the system. The hackers then demand a ransom amount for the release of the system. Although the attack came out in the media, the exact details of cybergang and ransom demands have not been disclosed. “The White House has contacted the Russian government to conduct a serious talk on this matter,” said Karine Jean-Parrie, Spokeswoman for the White house. The FBI is investigating the attack. In addition, the Australian and Canadian authorities came forward to aid JBS in recovering from this attack.

The officials of the JBS confirmed that there are no signs of data compromise. Even the backup servers have stayed intact. However, the transactions that occur between the supplier and customers can be possibly delayed. The company announced that the majority of the plants will be operational by Wednesday. As a matter of fact, some of the plants were operational overnight on Tuesday. In response to this event, Andre Nogueira, JBS USA Chief Executive said ” We are coming back online and not sparing any resources to fight this threat”.

Impacts of the JBS attack

A chart with major beef suppliers in the US

The JBS alone is responsible for 25 percent of total beef supply and 20 percent of total pork for the US. An analyst of Steiner Consulting Group  “attack on JBS even for one day can hugely impact the beef market and wholesale beef prices”. Things have not been going well for JBS. From paying wages and installing systems during the covid crisis, it has been hit harder by the attack. Higher supply-demand and employee unavailability led to a market crisis. With another cyberattack, JBS needs to act quickly to get back into the business.

Are American businesses under cyber threat?

There have been consecutive cyberattacks on American Government agencies, businesses, and health organizations. The attack on massive companies like JBS just after the attack on Colonial Pipelines is highly concerning. Colonial Pipeline went through a similar cyberattack where attackers settled with 4.4 million U.S. dollars ransom. Most of the attacks are linked to cybergangs likely from Russia. According to CNBC, a notorious cybercriminal organization named REvil is responsible for introducing ransomware into the JBS computer network.

Congressman Jim Langevin said to CNBC, “President Biden and the Congress need to make it clear to other countries particularly Russia that there is a price to pay if they are going to look the other way and allow criminal organizations to work their way”. He further added the attacks are happening again and again with the help of cyber tools. The problem is the victim companies prefer to pay the ransom rather than act against it. The time and resources needed to reconstitute the system are costlier than the ransom. It’s time the private and government companies start dealing the cybersecurity matters with utmost importance.