Meat packer JBS’s major beef slaughter plant in Alberta went back to work Tuesday following a cyberattack reported to have downed several of the company’s operations in North America and Australia.
JBS USA, the unit overseeing the Brazilian firm’s Canadian operations, and JBS-owned chicken unit Pilgrim’s Pride both reported “significant progress in resolving the cyberattack that has impacted the company’s operations in North America and Australia,” the parent firm said in a notice late Tuesday.
The company had reported Monday it was the target of an “organized cybersecurity attack, affecting some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems,” though backup servers were unaffected.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, in a statement Tuesday, said the administration had been informed by JBS on Sunday of what it described as a “ransomware attack.”
JBS, she said, had informed the White House that a ransom demand “came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia.”
Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts a targeted computer system’s files, rendering them unusable. A ransom is then demanded of the system’s owner, in exchange for decryption.
JBS didn’t use the term “ransomware” in its statement late Tuesday, nor did it say if any ransom was paid.
Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration is “engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbour ransomware criminals.”
Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to hold a summit meeting June 16 in Geneva.
The U.S. FBI is investigating the incident and working with the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to offer “technical support” to JBS in recovering from the ransomware attack, Jean-Pierre said.
JBS USA and Pilgrim’s both “were able to ship product from nearly all of (their) facilities to supply customers,” JBS said Tuesday, adding it “continues to make progress in resuming plant operations in the U.S. and Australia.”
Several JBS pork and poultry plants were operational Tuesday, and its “Canada beef facility resumed production,” the company said, referring to its beef slaughter and packing plant at Brooks, southeast of Calgary.
Further, JBS said, “given the progress IT professionals and plant teams have made in the last 24 hours, the vast majority of the beef, pork, poultry and prepared foods plants will be operational tomorrow.”
JBS has also had “strong support” from the Canadian, U.S. and Australian governments and “is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also “has reached out to several major meat processors in the United States to ensure they are aware of the situation,” Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
JBS operations in Mexico and the U.K. “were not impacted and are conducting business as normal,” the company added.
Canadian federal officials in March announced funding for a project to assess, reinforce and promote cybersecurity across the agriculture and agrifood sector, running through to 2024.
Dr. Janos Botschner, lead investigator for that project spearheaded by the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance (CSKA), said in an interview in April that the country’s ag and food sector can be considered critical infrastructure in the same sense as water and electricity supplies, telecommunications and financial services.
The ag and food sector, he said, “is a little bit newer to digital technology than other sectors are, but it may end up moving toward digitalization faster than the others have had to.”
But a “rapidly evolving” landscape of cybercrime and cyberdisruptions is expanding the number of risks the sector may have to face, at an earlier stage of adoption and cybersecurity maturity, he added. — Glacier FarmMedia Network