The world’s largest meat processing company has resumed most production after a weekend cyberattack, but experts say the vulnerabilities exposed by this attack and others are far from resolved.
In a statement late Wednesday, the FBI attributed the attack on Brazil-based meat processor JBS SA to REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months.
REvil has not posted anything related to the hack on its dark web site. But that’s not unusual. Ransomware syndicates as a rule don’t post about attacks when they are in initial negotiations with victims — or if the victims have paid a ransom.
JBS said late Wednesday said that it expects to resume production at all its plants on Thursday and be running at “close to full capacity” across its global operations.
President Joe Biden intends to confront Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, about his nation’s harboring of ransomware criminals when the two meet in Europe in two weeks.
JBS is the second-largest producer of beef, pork and chicken in the U.S. If it were to shut down for even one day, the U.S. would lose almost a quarter of its beef-processing capacity, or the equivalent of 20,000 beef cows, according to Trey Malone, an assistant professor of agriculture at Michigan State University.
The plant closures reflect the reality that modern meat processing is heavily automated, for both food- and worker-safety reasons. Computers collect data at multiple stages of the production process; orders, billing, shipping and other functions are all electronic.