Five of JBS’s largest U.S. beef plants have stopped processing after a ransomware attack on Sunday, halting nearly one-fifth of the nation’s beef production capacity. JBS is the world’s largest meat processor; in the U.S. it’s the top beef producer and the second-largest pork and poultry producer.
Company officials believe the attack to be “an extortion attempt perpetrated by a criminal group likely based in Russia,” Hamza Shaban reports for The Washington Post. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the attack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reached out to several major meat processors to alert them of the situation. Officials are assessing the cyberattack’s effect on the nation’s meat supply … as the administration works to mitigate its impact,” according to a White House spokesperson.
JBS detected the attack on its networks in North America and Australia on Sunday, but said their backup servers weren’t affected, and that there’s no evidence the hackers compromised or misused data tied to customers, suppliers, or employees, Shaban reports. An outside cybersecurity firm is helping the company restore its systems; the work “may delay certain transactions with customers or suppliers,” JBS said in a press release.
“The cyberattack is the latest to target a crucial supply chain or large institution,” Shaban reports. Less than a month ago, the federal government paid hackers, likely from Russia, $4.4 million after a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline. Rural utilities and local governments are often vulnerable to hackers because of inadequate cybersecurity.