Major meat processing facilities throughout the United States were forced to close this week when a ransomeware attack penetrated IT systems belonging to Brazilian company JBS S.A.
“The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any consumer, supplier, or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation,” said JBS in a statement. “Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”
As the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS has more than 150 industrial plants serving customers in nearly 100 countries. The company’s annual revenue exceeds $50 billion.
JBS produces 25% of America’s beef and 20% of America’s pork with brand names including 5 Star Reserve, Certified Angus Beef, Blue Ribbon Angus Beef, and Pilgrim’s.
The ransomware attack forced the closure of all nine JBS beef packing facilities in the US but did not seem to affect pork plants. Operations in Australia were also disrupted.
“The prospect of more extensive shutdowns worldwide is already upending agricultural markets and raising concerns about food security as hackers increasingly target critical infrastructure,” warns Bloomberg. “Livestock futures slumped, while pork prices rose.”
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the attack has driven prices for choice cuts of beef sold in boxes up by as much as $340 per 100 lbs. Meat supplies had already been tight thanks to surging demand caused by the reopening of restaurants.
“The supply chains, logistics, and transportation that keep our society moving are especially vulnerable to ransomware, where attacks on chokepoints can have outsized effects and encourage hasty payments,” notes cybersecurity expert John Hultquist.
The ransomeware attack on JBS may be linked to a similar attack targeting the Colonial Pipeline Company in March.
Colonial responded to the attack by closing its pipeline – one of the largest in the nation – for six days. This resulted in panic buying and increased prices at the pump. Colonial is reported to have paid Russian criminal hackers nearly $5 million to restore operations.
Russian hackers have also been blamed for the attack on JBS and White House officials are holding direct talks with Moscow regarding the situation. President Joe Biden is also planning to bring up the problem of ransomeware attacks during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva later this month.