JBS paid $11M to end cyberattack

JBS temporarily closed its North American plants after a cyberattack linked to a Russian group.  |  Reuters/Shannon Stapleton photo

REUTERS — Meat packer JBS USA paid a ransom equivalent to $11 million after a cyberattack that recently disrupted its North American and Australian operations.

“This was a very difficult decision to make for our company and for me personally,” said Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA on June 9.

“However, we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers.”

The JBS meat-packing plant in Brooks, Alta., was closed May 30, along with the five largest JBS beef facilities in the United States. The Brooks plant processes about 30 percent of all beef in Canada.

The subsidiary of Brazilian firm JBS SA halted cattle slaughtering at its Canadian and American plants for a day in response to the cyberattack, which threatened to disrupt food supply chains and inflate already high food prices.

Ransom software works by encrypting victims’ data. Typically, hackers will offer the victim a key in return for cryptocurrency payments that can run into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. The FBI said the agency was investigating about 100 different types of ransomware.

The JBS meat plants recovered faster than some meat buyers and analysts expected.

The Brazilian meat packer’s arm in the U.S. and Pilgrims Pride Corp., a U.S. chicken company mostly owned by JBS, lost less than one day’s worth of production. JBS is the world’s largest meat producer.

Third parties are carrying out forensic investigations and no final determinations have been made, JBS said. Preliminary probe results show no company, customer or employee data were compromised in the attack.

A Russia-linked hacking group is behind the cyberattack against JBS, said a source familiar with the matter. The group goes by the names REvil and Sodinokibi.

The Wall Street Journal reported on June 9 that the JBS ransom payment was made in bitcoin.

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