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US Struck by New Cyber Attack: World's Largest Meat Supplier Taken Offline by Likely Russian Ransomware

Meat packaging plant. (Adobe stock image)

Computer networks at JBS, the world's largest meat processing company, have been targeted by a sophisticated cyber-attack.

The company, the second-largest producer of beef, pork, and chicken in the U.S. said Tuesday it has made significant progress in dealing with the recent attack and expects many of its plants to be back up and running Wednesday.

The attack sent buyers scrambling for alternatives.  Processing plants were shut down in eight U.S. states as well as in Canada and Australia.  According to a local union that represents about 3,000 workers at a plant in Greeley, CO, two shifts were canceled Tuesday.

JBS blames hackers from Russia for the ransomware attack on its computer servers.

"It's very damaging," said cybersecurity expert Scott Spiro of Sugar Shot. "Even if they get their data back, which it looks like they will, there is still a toll to be had."

The attack comes on the heels of the Colonial Pipeline hack which shut down the critical fuel supply line causing thousands of gas stations in the Southeast U.S. to run dry.
"I don't think we've seen a period of this kind of sort of high-intensity cyber operations from Russian soil directed against a variety of different U.S. targets, arguably ever," said Javed Ali, a former national counterterrorism director at the National Security Council.

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JBS notified the White House Sunday that a criminal organization, likely based in Russia, was holding parts of its primary computer servers hostage, demanding a payout. 

The Biden administration is now engaging directly with the Russian government while the FBI investigates the attack.
"We're assessing any impacts on supply, and the president has directed the administration to determine what we can do to mitigate any impacts as they may become necessary," said Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

While it is unclear how the attack will affect consumers and meat prices in the days to come, experts say such attacks are becoming all too common.

"The reality is that consumers are going to continue to experience more of these kinds of disruptions," explained Jason Crabtree, co-founder of QOMPLX, a Virginia-based artificial intelligence and machine learning company. 

Former U.S. CyberSecurity Director Christopher Krebs said, "Guess what? They went after our gas and they went after our hot dogs. No one is out of bounds here. Everyone is in play. And every single corporate executive needs to be convening their cybersecurity teams and their business resilience teams today to understand what their continuity plans are."

Meanwhile, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is offering technical support to JBS. President Biden is still set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month in Geneva. 

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