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Largest meat producer works to restart after cyberattack

AP – Just weeks after a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, the world’s largest meat processing company is working to get back up and running following a similar attack.

“Our systems are coming back online and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat,” Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA, said in a statement.

Brazil’s JBS SA said late Tuesday that it had made “significant progress” in dealing with the cyberattack and expected the “vast majority” of its plants to be operating on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

The White House said JBS has made them aware of a ransom demand from a criminal organization likely based in Russia. The White and the Department of Agriculture have been communicating with JBS this week, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

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 attack shows just how automated meat processing plants have become. Computers collect data at multiple stages of the production process, and orders, billing, shipping and other functions are all electronic.

JBS said the cyberattack affected servers supporting its operations in North America and Australia. Backup servers weren’t affected and it said it was not aware of any customer, supplier or employee data being compromised.

U.S. meat prices were already increasing because of shutdown policy, poor weather and high plant absenteeism. Malone said the cyberattack could further raise meat prices ahead of the summer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates beef prices will climb 1%-2% this year, poultry as much as 1.5% and pork 2%-3%.

While JBS hasn’t said which of its84 US facilities has been affected, a union official confirmed that two shifts at the company’s largest U.S. beef plant, in Greeley, Colorado, were canceled. JBS did say it was able to hip meat from nearly all of its facilities Tuesday. 

Jean-Pierre said the White House “is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.”

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