Where’s the beef? Ransomware cyber-attacks shut down U.S. plants, meat shortage feared



JBS, the world’s largest meat producer located in Brazil, shuttered all of its U.S.-based plants yesterday to respond to a ransomware attack just weeks after the Colonial pipeline attack left the East Coast reeling with gas shortages.

JBS’ U.S. plants are responsible for nearly 25 percent of the U.S. meat supply at their 84 locations that employ more than 66,000 American workers. There are growing concerns that the U.S. and Australia, which were also affected by the hack, will face meat shortages and a potential rise in prices. 

The meat producer discovered the “organized cybersecurity attack” on some of its computer systems on Sunday. The company noted in a press release that any response to resolve the cybersecurity breach would “take time” and warned it “may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”

The company has been in communication with the White House, which believes the attackers were deployed by a criminal group located in Russia. 

The union for over 25,000 JBS meatpacking workers called on JBS “to work with state and federal leaders to work together to quickly resolve this breach.”

(Video: WXYZ-TV)

“As the union for JBS meatpacking workers across the country, UFCW is pleased JBS is working around the clock to resolve this and UFCW urging JBS to ensure that all of its meatpacking workers receive their contractually guaranteed pay as these plant shutdowns continue,” Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said in a statement.

The United States just recovered from a purportedly Russia-based ransomware attack by European hacking group Darkside, which deployed malware in fuel supplier Colonial Pipeline’s network systems, encrypting their data with a threat to release it online unless 75 BitCoin or $55 million was paid. 

Colonial was forced to shut down their pipeline, which delivers almost half of the transport fuels for the Atlantic Coast, resulting in fuel hoarding, shortages, lines at the pump, and the cancellation of longer airline flights. 

To get back online and operational, the company ultimately paid the ransom according to sources briefed on the matter who asked to remain anonymous because the information was confidential, as reported by Bloomberg. 

While the payment allowed Colonial to return to normal operations, it represents a developing problem for the Biden administration. It encourages other foreign actors who want to see a payday to target American companies and supply chains. 

Following the resolution of the pipeline attack, President Joe Biden stated:

“I cannot dictate that the private companies do certain things relative to cybersecurity. I think it’s becoming clear to everyone that we have to do more than being done now and the federal government can be significant value added,” Biden said at a White House briefing last month.

The influx of ransomware attacks have left experts calling for cybersecurity to be considered a top national security priority: 

White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to concerns about the latest targeted attack.

“JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia,” she said at a press briefing. “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 White House is also working with allies to hold countries that shield ransomware attackers accountable. 

There have been no updates as to when JBS will be back online or if the company plans to pay the ransom. 


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