THE world’s largest meat processor, JBS has been paralysed over the weekend by a major cyber attack on its global information technology systems.
The impact is already being seen in JBS’s Australian operations, where the company has cancelled today’s (Monday’s) entire beef and lamb kills across the nation, in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.
Overseas, it is still Sunday as this item is published, but it is anticipated that similar actions will happen in processing operations in North America, and potentially, South America* from tomorrow. Monday is a Memorial Day holiday in the US, which may help the company’s North American operations buy some time to find solutions. (*Editor’s note: On Tuesday, JBS confirmed that JBS South American operations are not impacted – see statement below.)
JBS Australia chief executive officer Brent Eastwood confirmed the cyber attack, and the immediate impact on the company’s Australian operations, to Beef Central this morning. He was unable to say how long the Australian stoppage might last.
An IT consultant told Beef Central that history suggested large businesses were often impacted for a week or more by such cyber attacks, before normal operations could resume.
While JBS is still assessing the impact of the damage and what it means to the business, there is no evidence at this stage that the attack has been motivated by animal or environmental activism. There has been a sequence of cyber attacks directed at large corporate entities of all types over the past few months. Australian and international companies recently impacted have included logistics giant Toll Holdings, New Zealand meat processor AFFCo, Asahi Breweries and others.
None were related to animal or environmental activism, but simply hackers ‘doing what they do’, Beef Central was told.
JBS Australia said it was unable to speculate about a resumption to processing operations in Australia, saying the first priority was to assess the impact and extent of the attack.
However it said processing operations would be impossible without normal access to IT and internet systems. The impact has already filtered back to JBS’s meat sales and lotfeeding operations, with incoming feeder cattle unable to be inducted without access to IT systems, Beef Central understands. JBS’s Primo Smallgoods business in Queensland has also been impacted.
Australian red meat processors spend enormous sums of money on electronic cyber security. Companies like Deloitte and EY are frequently used as consultants to try to find ‘cracks’ in some companies’ IT networks, but as this example shows, cyber-attack remains a threat to corporate and smaller businesses of all types, despite such precautions.
Beef Central was told JBS’s IT division resources around the world were working on the hack, but at this point was unable to provide detail until more was known.
The JBS US beef division (which includes operations in Australia) on Tuesday (Australian time) issued the following statement.
JBS USA Cybersecurity Attack
On Sunday, May 30, JBS USA determined that it was the target of an organised cybersecurity attack, affecting some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems.
The company took immediate action, suspending all affected systems, notifying authorities and activating the company’s global network of IT professionals and third-party experts to resolve the situation. 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.
The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation. Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.