Cyberattack on World's Largest Meat Supplier Halts U.S. Operations Weeks After Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

JBS, the largest global meat producer, shut down processing at its five biggest beef plants in the United States after a cyberattack this week, and it's unclear when they'll be back up and running.

The attack came a little over three weeks after Colonial Pipeline suffered a cyberattack that shut down operations and created an oil shortage on the East Coast. Reports said Sunday's attack on JBS impacted servers that support North American and Australian IT systems, prompting the suspension of all affected systems.

According to Bloomberg, JBS halted production at its five biggest plants in the U.S. In total, the company accounts for about 20 percent of America's slaughtering capacity, according to Reuters.

JBS USA said in a statement that the backup servers were not affected by the attack and the company is working with an Incident Response firm to restore systems as soon as possible.

"Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers," the statement added.

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A JBS USA cyberattack prompted the closure of several plants in the United States, according to Bloomberg. The Greeley JBS meat packing plant sits idle on April 16, 2020, in Greeley, Colorado. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Newsweek reached out to JBS USA for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One that JBS told the White House a "criminal organization likely based in Russia" was responsible for the attack.

"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 said, according to Reuters.

The cyberattack on JBS prompted reminders of the recent attack on Colonial Pipeline. Also believed to be the work of a group of Russian hackers, it prompted the shutdown of the 5,500-mile pipeline. Running from the Gulf Coast to New Jersey, the pipeline is key in moving oil across the country and the shutdown caused runs on gases and shortages.

Outages continued for about a week before Colonial Pipeline was able to resume operations and the company drew criticism for reportedly paying $5 million in ransom. Paying that sum may have emboldened hackers to strike bigger targets, former senior Department of Homeland Security official Paul Rosenzweig, told USA Today.

"So long as the internet is a place of anonymity, the criminals will be able to act with impunity," Rosenzweig added. "And why would they stop?"

Alexandra Jaffe, a reporter for the Associated Press, noted on Twitter that the FBI is investigating and the United States Department of Agriculture was reaching out to major meat processors in the United States.