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World’s largest meat company hit by cyberattack, FBI investigating

Brazil-based meat processor JBS SA has extensive facilities in the U.S., including processing plants in Texas and Colorado.

CANBERRA, Australian Capital Territory — A ransomware attack on the world's largest meat company is disrupting production around the world just weeks after a similar incident shut down a U.S. oil pipeline.

The Brazilian meat processor JBS SA notified the U.S. of a ransom demand from a criminal organization likely based in Russia, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed Tuesday. She said the White House and the Department of Agriculture have been in touch with the company several times this week.

JBS has extensive facilities in the U.S., including processing plants in Texas and Colorado. Two shifts were canceled Tuesday at JBS’ meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colorado, according to UFCW Local 7, which represents 3,000 workers at the plant.

The local union also has reports from workers that production was down on Monday but that is unconfirmed, according to spokesman Dakar Lanzino. Union representatives were meeting Monday to try to get more information from the company, Lanzino said.

JBS has not stated publicly that the attack was ransomware.

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.” The FBI is investigating the incident, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is offering technical support to JBS.

Credit: AP
FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2020 file photo, a worker heads into the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo.

In addition, USDA has spoken to several major meat processors in the U.S. to alert them to the situation, and the White House is assessing any potential impact on the nation’s meat supply.

Credit: AP
In this May 12, 2020, photo, the company logo sign sits at the entrance to the JBS Australia's Dinmore meatworks facility, west of Brisbane. (Dan Peled/AAP Image via AP)

In a statement Sunday, JBS said the cyberattack affected servers supporting its operations in North America and Australia. The company said it notified authorities and engaged third-party experts to resolve the problem as soon as possible. Backup servers weren't affected.

Thousands of Australian meat plant workers had no work for a second day Tuesday, and a government minister said it might be days before production resumes. JBS is Australia’s largest meat and food processing company, with 47 facilities across the country including abattoirs, feedlots and meat processing sites. JBS employs around 11,000 people in Australia.

It's not the first time a ransomware attack has targeted a food company. Last November, Milan-based Campari Group said it was the victim of a ransomware attack that caused a temporary technology outage and compromised some business and personal data.

In March, Molson Coors announced a cyber attack that affected its production and shipping.

Last month, a gang of hackers shut down operation of the Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. fuel pipeline. Colonial Pipeline confirmed it paid $4.4 million to the hackers