Processing plants in the U.S. and Australia were also hit
By Diego Flammini
A cyberattack responsible for temporarily shutting down five meat processing plants in the United States and one in Australia did the same to a beef facility in Brooks, Alta.
The JBS plant on Hwy 1 West, which is responsible for about 30 per cent of all Canadian beef processing, closed its doors to its nearly 3,000 employees on Sunday after a ransomware attack targeted computer servers at multiple JBS-owned plants.
“We know the plant was not operational. If you don’t have the computer systems to run the plant, then it doesn’t matter how many people you’ve got there to work – you just can’t run the plant,” Scott Payne, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, told the Calgary Herald.
The company’s backup servers were not affected by incident, the company said in a May 31 release.
Ransomware works by locking users out of their computer networks. Hackers then ask for a payment before giving back access.
As far as where the attack originated from, a well-known Russian outlet named REvil Group is responsible, CNBC reported.
In April of this year, the group stole and published blueprints for unreleased Apple products from Quanta Computer, a Taiwanese manufacturer. REvil then demanded Apple pay a US$50 million (CAD$60.3 million) ransom in exchange for the data.
The U.S. and Russian governments are in contact about the cyberattacks at the processing plants, said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy secretary.
“The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals,” she told reporters on Tuesday. “The FBI is investigating the incident and (the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure and Security Agency) is coordinating with the FBI to offer technical support to the company in recovering from the ransomware attack.”
The temporary facility shutdowns sent cattle prices lower, said Abhinesh Gopal, a commodity analyst with Farms.com Risk Management.
“There was a strong kneejerk reaction in cattle prices because of this,” he said. “Most of the shutdown capacity is reported to be back online but some analysts warn that the full extent of the attack may take a bit longer to assess.”
August live cattle futures closed Friday at 118.600 cents per pound and yesterday fell to its lowest at 114.625 cents per pound. Prices as of Wednesday morning around 117.700 cents per pound, Gopal added.
Despite the shutdowns being resolved quickly, those delays are enough to cause issues in the supply chain.
“There is a definite back up of animals on farms which may take longer to clear up, especially as we don’t know to what extent the processing facilities have opened,” Gopal said.
Farms.com has contacted members of Alberta’s beef industry for comment.