Just weeks after a devastating cyberattack hit the Colonial Pipeline, yet another critical infrastructure entity in the United States has been targeted by hackers: JBS USA. The largest meat supplier in the world, JBS indicated that its servers in both the U.S. and Australia had been affected by the ransomware attack, forcing the company to shut down operations at all nine of its U.S. facilities on Sunday. A trade group also reported that operations in Australia ground to a halt due to the attack.
According to Bloomberg:
JBS is the No. 1 beef producer in the U.S., accounting for 23% of the nation’s maximum capacity compared to rival Tyson Foods Inc.’s 22% share, according to an investor report by Tyson. JBS accounts for roughly a fifth of pork capacity.
The timing of the situation is particularly unfortunate given the recent long weekend. Steiner Consulting Group reported:
“Retailers and beef processors are coming from a long weekend and need to catch up with orders. If they suddenly get a call saying that product may not deliver tomorrow or this week, it will create very significant challenges in keeping plants in operation and the retail case stocked up.”
Food sector cyberattacks: a rising trend
Since May 2020, more than 40 ransomware attacks against food companies have been publicly reported, according to Allan Liska, who is a senior security architect at cybersecurity analytics firm Recorded Future. Critical infrastructure industries are learning the hard way just how vital cybersecurity is.
The JBS debacle comes on the tails of a nascent supply chain crisis in the meat industry. Prior to the attack, beef prices were already skyrocketing – something Reuters relates is due to “increasing demand from China, limited cattle supplies in some countries, a shortage of slaughterhouse workers and rising feed costs.”
Back to normal?
Will JBS be able to recover in a timely fashion? Company officials are optimistic about their outlook. On Tuesday, JBS’s CEO, Andre Nogueira, told USA TODAY: “the vast majority of our beef, pork, poultry and prepared foods plants will be operational tomorrow.” As of this post’s publishing, we are still awaiting confirmation that the plants are fully operational.
Officials have speculated that the attackers may be Russian. We have our bets on an army of white and black-spotted, four-legged creatures hellbent on revenge.