GREELEY, Colorado: JBS, the world's largest meatpacker, said it is working to make the "vast majority" of its plants operational after a weekend cyberattack took all of its U.S. beef processing offline and disrupted global operations, upending agricultural markets and fueling concerns over food security.
"Our systems are coming back online and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat," said JBS U.S.A. chief executive officer Andre Nogueira, in a statement, quoted by Bloomberg News.
The Sao Paulo-based company, which owns facilities in 20 countries, has yet to disclose how many of its plants globally were affected by the attack, attributed to Russia-linked hacking group REvil, also known as Sodinokibi.
Coming just three weeks after a ransomware attack on US gasoline pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline and a series of similar attacks targeting American government agencies, businesses, and health facilities, most of them blamed on Russia or Russia-based hackers, the latest cyber hack turned the spotlight back on meat monopolies and their implications for food security.
According to Allan Liska, senior security architect at cybersecurity analytics firm Recorded Future, more than 40 ransomeware attacks have been reported against food companies since May last year.
Tyson Foods, JBS, and Cargill control two-thirds of America's beef production. Thus, idling even a few plants could upend supply chains, as was evident last year when the pandemic forced plants to shut down, resulting in nationwide meat shortages.
The cyberattack on JBS kept the U.S. government from releasing daily meat-pricing data, which is key for agricultural markets, and caused pork prices to soar and livestock futures to dive.
The attack also forced slaughterhouse closures, thereby further aggravating an existing supply glut of livestock.
However, its impact on meat prices was not immediately clear, given retailers' reluctance to pass on price hikes to consumers.
"Attacks like this one highlight the vulnerabilities in our nation's food supply chain security, and they underscore the importance of diversifying the nation's meat processing capacity," said U.S. Senator John Thune of South Dakota.