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Ransomware Attack Forces Shut Down of Major Meat Plant

Over Memorial Day Weekend, the world’s largest meat company, JSB Foods, experienced a ransomware attack that affected everyone from farmers to restauranters. The company discovered the attack Sunday evening and took its systems offline in North America and Australia, affecting 11 beef processing facilities in Australia and 26 chicken processing plants in the US.

The attack incited a domino effect that drove up wholesale meat prices, backed up animals in barns, and forced food distributors to find new suppliers. The company said it alerted the authorities and set 3 objectives:

  1. Determine which operations could be run offline

  2. Restart systems using backup data

  3. Tap experts to handle negotiations with the attackers.

By that afternoon, the company had concluded that encrypted backups of its data were intact, said Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA Holdings Inc.

"The White House has offered assistance to JBS, and our team, and the Department of Agriculture, have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day," Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine 

Jean-Pierre said. "JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization, 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 harbor ransomware criminals."

The FBI announced that REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months, was responsible for the attack. The FBI said it will work to bring the group to justice and it urged anyone who is the victim of a cyberattack to contact the bureau immediately.

According to Nogueira, no customer, supplier, or employee data was compromised because of the attack, even though there were claims by the cybercriminals stating otherwise. After intense negotiations, JBS and the hackers decided on a payment of $11 million through Bitcoin. After the payment, the criminals confessed they were unable to obtain data from the company. JBS Foods resumed operations the following Wednesday and were only 3% below normal operating levels. “It was very painful to pay the criminals, but we did the right thing for our customers,” Nogueira said Wednesday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal

 “The recent cybersecurity attack on one of our country's largest meat processors is deeply concerning to me,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA). “This cowardly hacking of our critical infrastructure, of food, energy, and financial systems must be stopped now. A secure and resilient food and agricultural supply chain is critical to the nation’s welfare and national security."