The world’s largest meat processing company has been targeted by a sophisticated cyber-attack.
Computer networks at JBS were hacked, causing some operations in Australia, Canada, and the US to temporarily shut down, affecting thousands of workers, says the BBC.
The company believes the ransomware attack originated from a criminal group likely based in Russia. The White House says the FBI is investigating the attack.
In a ransomware attack, hackers get into a computer network and threaten to cause disruption or delete files unless a ransom is paid.
The latest attack follows a similar one last month on the largest fuel pipeline in the US in which a US$4.4 million ransom was paid by the company to the hackers.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday, “”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.”
JBS said it suspended all affected IT systems as soon as the attack was detected, and that its backup servers were not hacked. However, many affected plants are still unable to operate.
“Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers,” JBS said in a statement.
According to the trade group Beef Central, “supermarkets and other large end-users like the McDonald’s burger supply network will be some of the most immediately impacted customers, due to their need for consistent supply”.
JBS is a Brazilian company and the world’s biggest supplier of chicken, beef and pork. The company’s five biggest beef plants are in the US, and the shutdowns have halted 20% of meat production there, according to Bloomberg.
JBS is also Australia’s largest meat processor, with 47 facilities in several states. The Australian Federal Police have launched an investigation into the attack.
The company’s Canadian plant in Alberta was also affected, according to a JBS Canada Facebook page.
A spokesman said the company’s South American operations have not been disrupted.
CBS News reports that this is not the first time a ransomware attack has targeted a food company.
Last November, Italian company Campari Group said it was the victim of a ransomware attack that caused a temporary technology outage and compromised some business and personal data.
In March, Molson Coors announced a cyber-attack that affected its production and shipping in Canada.
Ransomware expert Brett Callow, a threat analyst at the security firm Emsisoft, said food companies like JBS make ideal targets.
“They play a critical role in the food supply chain and threat actors likely believe this increases their chances of getting a speedy payout,” he said.
The US government has recommended that companies do not pay criminals ransoms to avoid inviting future attacks.