White House contacts Russia after hack of world’s largest meatpacking company

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A ransomware attack against the world’s largest meatpacking company that has disrupted meat production in North America and Australia originated from a criminal organization probably based in Russia, the White House was informed on Tuesday.

The attack on Brazil’s JBS caused its Australian operations to shut down on Monday and has stopped livestock slaughter at its plants in several US states.

The ransomware attack follows one last month on Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline in the United States, that crippled fuel delivery for several days in the US south-east.

The White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said JBS had given details of the hack to the White House, that the United States had contacted Russia’s government about the matter and that the FBI was investigating.

“The White House has offered assistance to JBS and our team at the Department of Agriculture have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day,” 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,” Jean-Pierre added.

If the outages continue, US consumers could see higher meat prices during summer grilling season and meat exports could be disrupted at a time of strong demand from China.

JBS said it suspended all affected systems and notified authorities. It said its backup servers were not affected.

“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 said in a Monday statement.

“Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers,” the company’s statement said.

The company, which has its North American operations headquartered in Greeley, Colorado, controls about 20% of the slaughtering capacity for US cattle and hogs, according to industry estimates.

Two kill and fabrication shifts were canceled at JBS’s beef plant in Greeley due to the cyber-attack, representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 7 said in an email. JBS Beef in Cactus, Texas, also said on Facebook it would not run on Tuesday – updating an earlier post that had said the plant would run as normal.

JBS Canada said in a Facebook post that shifts had been canceled at its plant in Brooks, Alberta, on Monday and one shift so far had been canceled on Tuesday.
A representative in São Paulo said the company’s Brazilian operations were not affected.

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