The world’s largest meat processing company has been targeted by a sophisticated cyber-attack.
Computer networks at JBS were hacked, causing some operations in Australia, Canada and the US to temporarily shut down, affecting thousands of workers.
The company believes the ransomware attack originated from a criminal group likely based in Russia, the White House said.
The attack could lead to shortages of meat or raise prices for consumers.
In a ransomware attack, hackers get into a computer network and threaten to cause disruption or delete files unless a ransom is paid.
The White House says the FBI is investigating the attack.
“The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbour ransomware criminals,” she added.
JBS is the world’s largest meat supplier with more than 150 plants in 15 countries. It was founded in Brazil in 1953 as a slaughtering business by rancher José Batista Sobrinho. The company now has more than 150,000 employees worldwide.
Its customers include supermarkets and fast food outlet McDonald’s. In the US, JBS processes nearly one quarter of the country’s beef and one-fifth of its pork. JBS said it suspended all affected IT systems as soon as the attack was detected, and that its backup servers were not hacked. However many affected plants are still unable to operate.
“Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers,” JBS said in a statement.
IT systems are essential in modern meat processing plants, with computers used at multiple stages including billing and shipping.
According to the trade group Beef Central, “supermarkets and other large end-users like the McDonald’s burger patty supply network will be some of the most immediately impacted customers, due to their need for consistent supply”.