Russia-Linked Cyberattack on JBS Meats Hits 10,000 Jobs

JBS, the world's largest meat processing company, stood down thousands of staff after a suspected Russian ransomware attack that disrupted cattle-slaughtering operations of the Brazil-based company.

The meat packer stood down up to 7,000 workers in Australian abattoirs, while shifts for at least 3,000 workers have been canceled across Canada and the United States, the Financial Times reported.

The company's beef-processing factory in Cactus, Texas, was shut on Tuesday, the plant said on Facebook. The Greeley meat-packing plant in ColoradoJBS's largest U.S. slaughterhousealso saw shifts being canceled, a labor union representative said. The meat-packing company also canceled shifts at its beef plant in Brooks, Alberta, Canada.

JBS employs more than 66,000 people at 84 U.S. sites and around 11,000 in Australia.

The closures caused the U.S. Department of Agriculture to delay its reports on livestock and meat prices. Meat prices were already on the rise as fears of shortages were amplified after the cyberattack, which the White House said Tuesday, likely originated from Russia. The FBI is investigating the attack.

The hack also severely impacted JBS's 47 facilities in Australia, and the company has not indicated when it will be able to resume processing livestock at the facilities, Financial Times reported, citing sources.

Matt Journeaux, an official at the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, said JBS staff arrived at work on Monday morning and were told they would not be able to work due to the breach.

"This will impact food production. It just depends on how long the shutdown goes on for. JBS exports about 60 per cent of what it processes so some overseas customers could be light," Journeaux told the newspaper.

JBS said on Tuesday evening it had made progress resolving the issue and most of its plants would be fully functional shortly. The company added that it had determined it had been the target of an organized cyberattack, and had suspended impacted systems. Those included Australian and Northern American information technology systems, the group said.

"The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation. Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers," the company added.

If it was not resolved quickly, the attack could have a disastrous impact on the global meat market—with consumers likely to expect the cost of meat to rise even higher than the inflated prices seen at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. JBS controls around 20 percent of the meat processing in the U.S., so breaches like this one could disrupt food supply.

The JBS breach, which was first discovered on Sunday, is the latest in a line of cyberattacks on large companies, NGOs and government agencies that, the U.S. has suspected, come from Russia.

In May, a ransomware stopped flows on the Colonial pipeline, the largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the U.S. Colonial said it had paid the hackers $4.4 million on May 7, although it denied doing so at the time.

The White House said Tuesday that it was engaging with the Russian government on the latest breach.

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed the FBI was investigating the JBS attack and that the Biden administration was reviewing ways to mitigate supply chain disruptions.

Greeley JBS Meat Packing Plant Closes
The Greeley JBS meat packing plant on April 16, 2020 in Greeley, Colorado. JBS, the world's largest meat processing company, had to stand down thousands of workers, including some at the Greeley plant, after a ransomware attack disrupted operations. Matthew Stockman/Getty