While the details of the attack remain unclear, it could potentially have profound consequences for the company.
JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, announced Monday that it had been the target of a cyber attack, impacting operations in North America and Australia.
Citing local union officials, Bloomberg reported that operations at plants in Australia, the United States, and Canada had been halted. The Brazil-based company produces 32 billion pounds of meat each year and is the number one beef producer in the United States, according to its website.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that JBS slaughtered 13 million animals a day in 2018.
The company has yet to release details regarding the attack, and it remains unclear whether JBS has been hit by ransomware or something else.
In a statement to Motherboard, JBS’ American subsidiary said that it had been the “target of an organized cybersecurity attack” that affected only some of its North American and Australian “IT systems.” It also claimed that none of the company’s backup servers had been hit and that it would be working around the clock to get the targeted systems up and running again.
JBS did not provide further detail on how its operations had been affected.
“The company took immediate action, suspending all affected systems, notifying authorities and activating the company’s global network of IT professionals and third-party experts to resolve the situation,” a JBS spokesperson wrote. “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,” they added.
According to beef industry blog Beef Central, how much time is the key question for the company.
“Should normal operations resume in a day or two, that damage will be contained, and relatively minor,” Jon Condon, a writer at Beef Central, wrote. “But if it drifts on into week-two, week-three or week-four—as some fear it may—the impact will be far more profound.”
Condon also pointed out that the meat industry uses IT systems at virtually every step of the livestock supply chain.
In April of 2020, a JBS meatpacking plant in Colorado was shut down after over a hundred of its workers were infected with COVID-19, five of whom later died. In February, American lawmakers announced that they would be launching an investigation into JBS and other livestock companies’ handling of pandemic working conditions.
The cyberattack comes just weeks after Colonial Pipeline, a U.S. company operating a 5,500-mile gas pipeline, was hit by a ransomware attack that eventually saw it shell out $4.4 million dollars to the criminal hacking group.