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White House Responds, US Meat Supply Under Strain After Cyberattack Hits JBS Foods

Brittany Jordan

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The White House Tuesday said that the cyberattack affecting meatpacking firm JBS Foods’ systems appeared to originate in Russia and said the administration is offering assistance.

“JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization, likely based in Russia,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, adding that the Biden administration is “engaging directly” with Moscow and has sent a “message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.”

On Monday, JBS confirmed in a release that it was hit with a cybersecurity attack. The firm’s servers in Australia and North America were impacted during the incident.

“The company’s backup servers were not affected, and it is actively working with an Incident Response firm to restore its systems as soon as possible,” said the statement, which added the Brazil-based company is “not aware” of any employee, customer, or supplier data that was obtained or breached.

The FBI is investigating the cyberattack, while the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is providing technical support, Jean-Pierre said.

“The White House has offered assistance to JBS, and our team and the Department of Agriculture have spoken to their leadership several times in the last day,” Jean-Pierre added to reporters. “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,” Jean-Pierre said, according to The Hill.

The Greeley JBS meatpacking plant sits idle in Greeley, Co., on April 16, 2020. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

After the cyberattack, JBS’s pork and beef plants in Iowa, Minnesota, and Texas announced on Facebook that they were canceling several shifts on Tuesday for an undisclosed period of time.

“June 1 there will be no 1&2 harvest and no 1&2 bacon slicing. All other departments will start at regular times,” said a Facebook post from the JBS pork plant in Ottumwa, Iowa.

According to the plant in Cactus, Texas, “We will not operate tomorrow. Buses will not run. ONLY MAINTENANCE, MATERIAL HANDLING, and FREEZERS ARE SCHEDULED TO WORK. Orientation for 6/1 is also canceled.”

Because of the outages, nearly one-fifth of U.S. beef production has been halted, according to Bloomberg. JBS Foods is the No. 1 producer of beef in the country, while rival firm Tyson Foods is No. 2, the report said.

Scott Payne, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union Local 401, told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that a plant in Brooks, Alberta, in Canada, was shut down. “Effectively the plant’s operations have shut for the day,” he said.

Last month, Colonial Pipeline, a major fuel transporting system along the U.S. East Coast, was breached via a ransomware attack that FBI officials believe originated in Russia and Eastern Europe. The pipeline was down for approximately a week, prompting a spike in gas prices as well as fuel shortages in several southeastern states.

Brittany Jordan is an award-winning journalist who reports on breaking news in the U.S. and globally for the Federal Inquirer. Prior to her position at the Federal Inquirer, she was a general assignment features reporter for Newsweek, where she wrote about technology, politics, government news and important global events around the world. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Toronto Star, Frederick News-Post, West Hawaii Today, the Miami Herald, and more. Brittany enjoys food, travel, photography, and hoarding notebooks and journals. Her goal is to do more longform features journalism, narrative writing and documentary work, and to one day write a successful novel and screenplay.

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