Breach, Critical Infrastructure Security, Data Security

Global meat processor JBS shuts part of operation to blunt cyberattack fallout

The JBS meat packing plant its idle on April 16, 2020, in Greeley, Colo. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The North American and Australian IT systems of JBS, the largest meat processing company in the world, were the target of "an organized cybersecurity attack," the company said in a statement Monday, confirming that its customers and supply chain could be impacted. 

The incident is the latest example of a company forced to shut down portions of operations in an attempt to stop the bleeding from a cybersecurity attack. It also comes close on the heels of another high-profile critical-infrastructure breach, just three weeks after a  ransomware attack led to the shutdown of Colonial Pipeline. That incident wreaked havoc on the company's supply chain and triggered fuel shortages in the southeastern United States. Like the energy sector, food and agriculture are classified as critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security, accounting for roughly one-fifth of the nation's economic activity. 

While some saw Colonial as a typical ransomware attack, others saw it as reflective of weaknesses in the security posture of the nation’s critical infrastructure or as evidence of inadequacies in the existing framework for public-private partnership.  

Details remained scarce Monday evening. "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," JBS USA said in a statement. "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 said it is unaware of any evidence that customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation. But its statement said "resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers." 

The JBS hack comes at a time where prices for beef are higher than they've been in decades, spurring a reported investigation by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Justice into JBS, Tyson Foods, National Beef and Cargill for potential price manipulation (the four companies control 85 percent of the U.S. market).  

In April 2020, JBS experienced a nine-day closure at a large meat processing operations with over 3,000 employees in Greeley, due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

This story is developing. Check back for additional details. 

Jill Aitoro

Jill Aitoro leads editorial for SC Media, and content strategy for parent company CyberRisk Alliance. She 20 years of experience editing and reporting on technology, business and policy.

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