It is clear that the pandemic has not dampened the enthusiasm of hackers, quite the contrary. Many have taken advantage of the new security vulnerabilities offered by the generalization of remote work to penetrate the heart of the systems of large groups. The automotive industry, health centers and public services have not been spared recently. Last weekend, the servers of JBS SA, the world’s largest beef producer, were targeted by a cyber attack.
Consequences: all of the group’s American slaughterhouses had to close their doors on Tuesday, June 1 – factories that usually supply nearly a quarter of American distributors. According to a union official United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, all other JBS meat packing facilities were also disrupted.
The attack on the Brazilian multinational’s computer networks also affected some of its slaughterhouses in Australia and Canada. The exact number of factories that have been impacted by the ransomware remains unknown. According to JBS, the ransom demand came from a Russian-based criminal organization; the White House immediately provided support and said in a statement that the FBI was investigating the incident.
Critical infrastructures as preferred targets
Today, industry players fear further closures, which could lead to major supply problems and a significant rise in prices. In the United States, four giants share more than 80% of the American beef market: JBS, Tyson, Cargill and Leucadia. The slightest disruption in the production chain of any of these groups has a significant impact on the price of meat. An impact which will not however be “immediately apparent” for consumers, according to Michael Nepveux, economist at theAmerican Farm Bureau Federation.
But the event above all raises concerns about food security: it would indeed seem that critical infrastructures (related to health, security, essential resources, etc.) are the new favorite target of hackers, sometimes putting in danger of human lives. For example, the attack on a water treatment plant in Florida in February could have had dramatic consequences if it had not been spotted in time.
A few weeks ago, on May 7, the giant Colonial Pipeline Co., operator of the largest oil pipeline in the United States – an 8,900 kilometer pipeline connecting Houston to New York – was the target of a ransomware attack initiated by DarkSide group. This forced the shutdown of all pipeline operations, causing a fuel shortage across the eastern seaboard of the United States. It is the largest attack on oil infrastructure in the country’s history. Colonial Pipeline has admitted to paying a ransom of $ 4.4 million to hackers to recover its data and regain control of its systems.
Food industry victim of more than 40 ransomware in one year
Attacks on the food industry could have equally dire consequences. According to Allan Liska, cybersecurity expert at Recorded Future, there have been more than 40 publicly reported ransomware attacks against food companies since May 2020. And this new attack on JBS has had an impact on the beef supply in the world. whole world. ” Attacks like this highlight vulnerabilities in our country’s food supply chain security, and they underscore the importance of diversifying the country’s meat-processing capacity. Said John Thune, Republican Senator from South Dakota.
JBS has factories in twenty countries. It is the number one beef producer in the United States. But according to the US Department of Agriculture, the slaughter of cattle fell 22% and that of pigs fell 20% following the attack. In Australia, the group exports around 70 to 75% of sheep and cattle meat products to more than 50 countries. ” Considering the size of JBS in the world, if they were offline for more than a week, we would definitely see disruption in supply chains. Says Matt Dalgleish, Head of Commodities Markets at Thomas Elder Markets.
Fortunately, the US subsidiary of JBS was able to restore operations through its backup servers, which apparently were not affected by the attack; the resumption of production should be effective as of today according to an official statement from the company. However, the incident will cause significant delays in deliveries and transactions.
Recall that following the attack on Colonial Pipeline Co., President Joe Biden urgently signed a decree aimed at accelerating several cybersecurity initiatives. This decree involves the creation of new software standards aimed at securing government agencies, as well as the establishment of a cyber incident review committee, dedicated to the analysis of major attacks in the country.