One of the world’s largest meat suppliers has been hit by a major ransomware attack, potentially affecting the worldwide meat supply.
The attack targeted US and Australian IT systems at meat distributor JBS, headquartered in São Paulo, Brazil. The firm has offices in the US, Australia and Canada, as well as 150 meat plants in 15 countries.
Computer networks were hacked, causing some operations in Australia and Canada to temporarily shut down, and possibly affecting around one-fifth of the US meat supply.
Additionally, shifts for around 7,000 Australian abattoir workers and at least 3,000 across Canada and the US have had to be cancelled in the wake of the attack.
The White House says it believes that those responsible are likely operating out of Russia, and said they have begun conversations with the Russian government over the attack.
In a statement, the firm said: “On Sunday, May 30, JBS USA determined that it was the target of an organised cybersecurity attack, affecting some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems.
“The company took immediate action, suspending all affected systems, notifying authorities and activating the company’s global network of IT professionals and third-party experts to resolve the situation. 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 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. Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”
The attack on JBS is the latest in a string of large-scale ransomware attacks on the public sector, indicating a concerning trend. The attack follows closely from the one which shut down a major US fuel pipeline last month. The attack crippled systems, causing a jump in US fuel prices and panic buying across the country.
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According to the trade group Beef Central, the full impact of the JBS cyberattack is yet to be felt: “Supermarkets and other large end-users like the McDonald’s burger pattie supply network will be some of the most immediately impacted customers, due to their need for consistent supply, if the current stoppage lasts for any significant length of time.”
Firms have been seeing a marked increase in ransomware attacks since last year, in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic and also the increased use of technology.
In mid-May, Ireland’s healthcare service was forced to close down computer systems due to a “significant ransomware attack”. The attack caused cancellations of outpatient appointments at one of Ireland’s biggest hospitals.
According to data from cybersecurity company Bitdefender, Global ransomware attacks saw a massive increase in 2020, growing 485% compared to 2019.
The data revealed that the first and second quarter of 2020 saw the majority of the attacks, 64%, an increase of 19% than the first two quarters of 2019.
A report released by the Ransomware Task Force (RTF) in April warned that the surge of ransomware attacks risks becoming a national security concern.
The RTF report made 48 recommendations, including addressing the complexities of the ransomware epidemic, from the role of cyber insurance and cryptocurrency to safe havens for threat actors.