Major meat supplier JBS USA confirms cyberattack

Business

GREELEY, COLORADO – APRIL 16: The Greeley JBS meat packing plant sits idle on April 16, 2020 in Greeley, Colorado. The meat packing facility had voluntarily closed until April 24 in order to test employees for the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus. As more workers tested positive for the coronavirus throughout the U.S, plants in Colorado, South Dakota, and Iowa temporarily halted production. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) — A cyberattack affecting one of the world’s largest meat producers, JBS SA, has also hit the U.S. division of the company, officials have confirmed.

The ransomware attack, which left thousands of Australian meat workers out of work Monday, also stopped livestock slaughter at plants in some U.S. states, Reuters reports. JBS Canada also announced shift cancelations Monday on Facebook.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told the news agency during an Air Force One trip to Oklahoma Tuesday that the FBI is investigating and officials have reached out to the Russian government after JBS said they were attacked by a “criminal organization likely based in Russia.”

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

JBS USA said in a statement from Greeley, Colorado, on Monday that it was the target on Sunday of an “organized cybersecurity attack” affecting some of its servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems.

“The company’s backup servers were not affected and it is actively working with an Incident Response firm to restore its systems as soon as possible,” the statement said.

“The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation,” JBS said in a statement to CNN. “Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”

It’s not yet clear what effect the apparent extortion attempt will have on the price of meat on grocery store shelves. The company did not immediately respond to requests about the extent of the disruption to US production.

The cyberattack comes just weeks after a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline saw panic buyers flooding U.S. service stations which ran out of fuel in large numbers.

Cyberattack disrupts production in Australia

In Australia, the ransomware devastated production as a work stoppage entered a second day Tuesday. A government minister said it might be days before production resumes.

JBS is also Australia’s largest meat and food processing company, with 47 facilities across the country including abattoirs, feedlots and meat processing sites. JBS employs around 11,000 people.

Australian Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government and Australian Federal Police were working with JBS to resolve the problems and to pursue those responsible.

“Despite the fact that JBS accounts for around 20% of our processing production here in Australia, we’re not expecting there to be significant impacts on exports so long as this isn’t a protracted shutdown,” Littleproud said on Tuesday.

“We’re also working with JBS right here in Australia to make sure that we can get some limited capacity up and going in the next couple of days. JBS have been very proactive in that,” he said.

Littleproud said it was too early to say whether it was a ransomware attack or who might be responsible.

Australian staff learned of the attack when they were turned away from their workplaces on Monday.

JBS exports about 70% of what it produces in Australia. But Australia and New Zealand account for only 4% of the company’s global revenue.

Several consignments of cattle in Queensland state were cancelled at short notice and cattle trucks were turned around, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

“We had to send them up on Sunday afternoon and then we got the message in the morning that they’d have to cancel the train because the meat works was going to be shutting for an indefinite amount of time,” Queensland cattle rancher Colin Baker told ABC.

“We had a wasted day . . . because mustering the cattle, sorting them out and then trucking them up there and then we had to bring them home today and let them all go again,” Baker added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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