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Diving Into National and Cybersecurity Implications Of Ransomware Attack On US Meat Packing Company

The Greeley JBS meat packing plant sits idle on April 16, 2020 in Greeley, Colorado.
The Greeley JBS meat packing plant sits idle on April 16, 2020 in Greeley, Colorado.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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A ransomware attack on the world’s largest meat processing company disrupted production around the world just weeks after a similar incident shut down a U.S. oil pipeline.

Brazil’s JBS SA, however, said late Tuesday that it had made “significant progress” in dealing with the cyberattack and expects the “vast majority” of its plants to be operating on Wednesday. Earlier, the White House said JBS had 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 said the White House and the Department of Agriculture have been in touch with the company several times this week. 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 closures reflect the reality that modern meat processing plants are heavily automated, for both food- and worker-safety reasons. 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. Today on AirTalk, we talk with experts about the incident, its significance and whether there’s concerns about similar and more frequent attacks in the future. 

With files from the Associated Press 


Robert Stasio, fellow at the Truman National Security Project, a national security think tank; former U.S. army cyber officer and former chief of operations for one of NSA’s cyber centers 

Hal Kempfer, CEO of Global Risk Intelligence and Planning (GRIP), a management consulting firm based in Long Beach, retired Marine lieutenant colonel; he has worked in military support for homeland security and defense both as an active member of the military and as a civilian; he tweets @kippinc