World Meatpacking giant JBS pays $11 million to ransomware hackers
JBS cyber attack grinds biggest meat processor to a halt, causing livestock trade tumult
A cyber attack paralyses the operations of Australia's biggest meat processor, and it's creating disarray for farmers across the country.JBS USA has confirmed the company was targeted by an organised cyber-attack on Sunday, which has paralysed its operations in North America and Australia.
JBS, one of the world's biggest meat processors, has paid bitcoin worth $11 million in ransom to hackers to prevent any further disruption after a paralyzing cyberattack believed to have originated in Russia.
This was the second multi-million-dollar payment to hackers in recent weeks, drawing attention to the broader threat posed by ransomware to essential infrastructure, services and businesses.
Hackers had targeted the computer systems of Brazil-based JBS last week, impacting operations in the United States, Australia and Canada. The company's US subsidiary said Wednesday it had paid the equivalent of $11 million in ransom.
Beef Prices Rise, Shortages Feared as White House Confronts Russia Over JBS Meat Packer Hack
"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," Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.The White House believes that the ransomware attack was carried out by a group of Russian cybercriminals and directly confronted the Russian government over the issue after being informed of the attack by JBS. It happened only weeks after a similar attack brought down the Colonial Pipeline, causing gas prices in parts of the country to surge and fears of shortages to come to fruition as panicked motorists flocked to pumps.
"This was a very difficult decision to make for our company and for me personally," said Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA.
"However, we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers."
The company said it made the payment "to mitigate any unforeseen issues related to the attack and ensure no data was exfiltrated."
Nogueira told the Wall Street Journal that the ransom was paid in bitcoin.
The JBS hack was the second major ransomware attack on a major US entity in recent weeks.
A cyberattack in May forced the temporary shutdown of the huge Colonial fuel pipeline network in the eastern United States, and sparked panic buying in some states.
Colonial paid $4.4 million in ransom to regain control and restore operations.
World's largest meat producer getting back online after cyber attack
It is unclear if the world's largest meat processing company has paid hackers a ransom to get its operations, including dozens of Australian facilities, back to work. © Getty JBS owns facilities in 20 countries. JBS is understood to have resumed most production after a weekend cyber attack, but experts say the vulnerabilities exposed by this attack and others are far from resolved. JBS said yesterday it had made “significant progress” and expected the “vast majority” of its plants to be operating today.
The US Justice Department later recovered $2.3 million in bitcoin, tracking the ransom payment as it moved through multiple anonymous transfers and eventually seizing it from a cryptocurrency wallet.
- Growing threat -
The JBS and Colonial Pipeline attacks follow the 2020 hack of the SolarWinds software company.
Microsoft warned recently that the state-backed Russian group behind the SolarWinds attack had re-emerged with a series of attacks on government agencies, think tanks and other groups.
The White House has not blamed the Kremlin directly for the recent ransomware attacks, only suggesting that criminal groups are operating from inside Russia.
However, President Joe Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki said "responsible states do not harbor" cybercriminals.
Cybersecurity experts say many independent ransomware extortionists appear to be located in Russia or former Soviet satellites in eastern Europe.
Pipeline chief to face Congress as US recovers ransom payment
Colonial Pipeline officials have said they saw the $4.4m ransom payment as necessary to restart halted operations.Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount will face the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, one day after the US Department of Justice revealed it had recovered the majority of the $4.4m ransom payment the company made in hopes of getting its system back online. A second hearing is set for Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee.
The attacks have grown so frequent that the issue has been elevated in seriousness in the Justice Department to the level of terror attacks.
Recent ransomware targets include local governments, hospitals, insurers, and even a ferry service in Massachusetts.
At least $18 billion was paid to ransomware attackers last year, according to the security firm Emsisoft. It has found "tens of thousands" of victims so far in 2021.
The increasing threat of such cyberattacks has led to calls for tightening legislation, and even requiring private companies to report them.
"The number of companies that are getting hit on a regular basis with ransomware attacks and quietly paying in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, I think would shock most folks in business," Mark Warner, chairman of the US Senate's Intelligence Committee, told CNBC last month after the Colonial hack.
Warner has called for legislation requiring companies to report any attacks to the government to ensure a robust response.
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