The U.S. wing of Brazilian meatpacker JBS said Tuesday evening it has made "significant progress" in addressing a cyberattack that hit its North American and Australian operations on Sunday and expects the "vast majority" of its facilities to be operational Wednesday.
The company announced Monday it discovered it had been the subject of an "organized cybersecurity attack" that hit its systems on Sunday, May 30. JBS said after discovering the attack, it immediately shut down its servers, notified the authorities, and alerted its IT team to the breach. JBS confirmed that its South American servers were not affected. On Tuesday, JBS USA CEO Andre Nogueira issued a statement outlining the company's progress and offered a prospective resuming period.
“Our systems are coming back online and we are not sparing any resources to fight this threat," he said. "We have cybersecurity plans in place to address these types of issues and we are successfully executing those plans. Given the progress our IT professionals and plant teams have made in the last 24 hours, the vast majority of our beef, pork, poultry and prepared foods plants will be operational tomorrow.”
The scope and impact of the attack is not yet known. According to media reports, the shutdown forced about 7,000 workers in its Australian processing facilities to halt work. Its 47 Australian facilities have not resumed operating. On Tuesday, JBS also canceled shifts and turned away livestock haulers at its large U.S. and Canadian meatpacking plants. Bloomberg, citing a source with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, reported Tuesday the hack had taken all of the company's U.S. processing offline. USDA's estimated daily livestock slaughter report showed drops in processing of about 27,000 cattle and about 95,000 hogs Tuesday from the prior week's figures.
On Tuesday, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the company had been in touch with the Biden administration on Sunday and said it was the victim of a ransomware attack and a ransom demand "came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia."
"USDA has reached out to several major meat processors in the United States to ensure they are aware of the situation," she said. "We're assessing any impacts on supply, and the President has directed the administration to determine what we can do to mitigate any impacts as they may become necessary."
She said the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency were both working on the issue and the White House "is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter."
Nogueira expressed his gratitude and thanks to "the White House, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Australian and Canadian governments for their assistance over the last two days."
In a statement, UFCW President Marc Perrone said the union was "pleased JBS is working around the clock to resolve this.
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Perrone added the union urges "JBS to ensure that all of its meatpacking workers receive their contractually guaranteed pay as these plant shutdowns continue. UFCW is calling on JBS to work with state and federal leaders to help get JBS meatpacking workers back on the job as soon as possible so these essential workers can continue to keep our country’s food supply fully operational and secure as this pandemic continues.”
JBS is one of the so-called "big four" beef packers and represents just about a quarter of the nation's beef processing capacity. According to the company, JBS has "65 production facilities, 44 prepared foods facilities, six feedlots, six live hog operations and eight transportation terminals with operations in 28 U.S. states, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Europe, Australia and New Zealand." Those facilities employ more than 100,000 people and have the ability to process more than 200,000 cattle, 500,000 hogs, 45 million chickens, and 80,000 combined lambs, sheep, goats and veal calves per week.
The company's processing system is largely reliant on its computer systems for recordkeeping, regulatory reports, sorting livestock, and many other aspects of meat processing.
Operations will remain on pause until the extent of the attack is understood, according to JBS Australia. Brent Eastwood, JBS Australia’s CEO, was unable to say how long they expect this will be.
The cybersecurity attack, which comes on the heels of similarly disruptive cyberattacks on large companies, is predicted to “delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers” according to the statement put out by JBS.
While the extent of the hack is still under investigation, the company said there is no evidence that customer, supplier, or employee data has been breached.
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