Cyber-attack on JBS, world’s largest meatworks, temporarily shuts Australian operations

The ransomware attack, believed to have been carried out by Russians, halted work at 47 JBS sites across Australia

A cyber-attack on the world’s largest meatpacking company, JBS, is not expected to disrupt meat supply in Australia, despite the attack temporarily shutting down the company’s operations in the country.

JBS was forced to stop operating its 47 sites across Australia on Monday due to a ransomware attack – where hackers encrypt systems and data and force companies to pay out money to unlock the systems.

Australia’s agriculture minister, David Littleproud, said the attack had locked up the systems JBS used for quality assurance in the meat processing.

The Brazil-based company said on Tuesday the attack had affected operations in Australia and North America, but systems were slowly being restored from backup.

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

JBS said the vast majority of beef, pork, poultry and prepared food plants will be operational within the next day. Several of the plants returned to operation overnight on Tuesday.

While there had been concern the attack would lead to a shortage of meat across the two continents, JBS said in the US it was able to ship product from nearly all its facilities to supply customers. In Australia, the Australian Meat Industry Council said there was no evidence it would have any impact on supply.

“The Australian meat industry has systems in place across the supply chain to deal with these types of issues, including managing livestock through the system effectively and access to cold storage for meat supply,” AMIC’s chief executive, Patrick Hutchinson, said in a statement.

“The strength and flexibility of the red meat and pork products supply chain has been demonstrated in the past on market access issues and Covid-19 impacts. That is why we are world-renowned as the most reliable meat supply chain globally.”

JBS has been receiving support from the FBI, as well as Australian and Canadian authorities, with the location of the hackers believed to be in Russia.

The White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said JBS had given details of the hack to the White House, that the United States had contacted Russia’s government about the matter and that the FBI was investigating.

“The White House has offered assistance to JBS and our team at the Department of Agriculture have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day,” Jean-Pierre said.

“JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organisation likely based in Russia. 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,” Jean-Pierre added.

The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised.

The ransomware attack follows one last month on Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline in the United States, that crippled fuel delivery for several days in the US south-east.


Josh Taylor and wires

The GuardianTramp

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