5 of America’s largest meat plants shuttered after JBS cyberattack

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Five of America’s largest beef plants were shut down Tuesday, following a cyberattack, further throttling a pandemic-ravaged supply chain, reports said. 

The closure of the JBS SA plants, which collectively handled 22,500 cattle a day, instantly wiped out nearly 20 percent of America’s beef production after apparent hackers targeted the company’s computer networks over the weekend, Bloomberg reported, citing JBS, unions and employees. 

JBS, based in Brazil, said late Tuesday that it had made “significant progress” in dealing with the cyberattack and expected the “vast majority” of its plants to be operating on Wednesday.

“Our systems are coming back online and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat,” Andre Nogueira, the CEO of JBS USA said in a statement.

Beef processing facilities in Utah, Texas, Wisconsin and Nebraska were closed while plants in Iowa and Colorado saw shifts canceled, Bloomberg reported.

The Wall Street Journal said production has also been impacted in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. 

The globe’s largest meat producer is also seeing shutdowns in Australia and in Canada where operations at one of the country’s largest slaughterhouses was paused for a second day Tuesday. 

The company said earlier that it was forced to shut its computer networks in North America and Australia following the organized cyber onslaught and as a result, it was possible certain transactions would be delayed.

Close to 20 percent of America's beef production has stopped following cyberattacks against JBS SA, according to reports.
Close to 20 percent of America’s beef production has stopped following cyberattacks against JBS SA, according to reports.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

They said plants in Brazil are operating normally, Bloomberg said. 

The White House said JBS had notified the US of a ransom demand from a criminal organization likely based in Russia.

It’s not immediately clear how many plants halted operations but the prospect of larger, widespread shutdowns threw agricultural markets out of whack and heightened concerns about food security, Bloomberg reported.

Matt Dalgleish, who manages commodity markets insights at Thomas elder Markets, said the shutdown poses a big risk to the larger export industry.  

“If it’s a short term scenario, just a week or something that they’re offline, then it’s probably just a minimal hiccup,” Dalgleish told the outlet.

A worker walks past a mural outside the JBS SA pork processing plant in Louisville, Kentucky.
A worker walks past a mural outside the JBS SA pork processing plant in Louisville, Kentucky.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

But, “given the size of JBS globally,” if the company is offline for more than a week, “we’re going to see disruption to supply chains for sure,” he said. 

The attack and subsequent shutdowns are exacerbating existing supply chain issues, largely brought on by the pandemic, that has led to high costs at the grocery store and restaurants and a nationwide chicken wing shortage. 

It comes three weeks after hackers targeted Colonial Pipeline Co. and is one of at least 40 publicly reported ransomware attacks against food companies, Allan Liska, the senior security architect for the cybersecurity analytics firm Recorded Future, told the outlet 

“The actual number is probably higher,” Liska said. 

“While JBS has not confirmed that this is a ransomware attack it has all of the hallmarks of one.” 

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