Meat company JBS confirms it paid $11M ransom in cyberattack

FILE – In this April 8, 2020, file photo, a truck bearing Weld County insignia sits outside the administrative office entrance at JBS USA in Greeley, Colo. A union representing workers at a JBS USA meatpacking plant in Colorado where six workers have died of the coronavirus and hundreds more were infected is protesting a $15,615 fine against the company for failing to provide safe working conditions at the plant in Greeley. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union says JBS failed to protect workers from getting sick and didn’t compensate them for working under the risk of contracting COVID-19. (Alex McIntyre/The Greeley Tribune via AP, File)

The world’s largest meat processing company, with a massive plant in Greeley, says it paid the equivalent of $11 million to hackers who broke into its computer system late last month.

Brazil-based JBS SA said on May 31 that it was the victim of a ransomware attack, but Wednesday was the first time the company’s U.S. division confirmed that it had paid the ransom.

“This was a very difficult decision to make for our company and for me personally,” said Andre Nogueira, the CEO of JBS USA. “However, we felt this decision had to be made to prevent any potential risk for our customers.”

JBS said the vast majority of its facilities were operational at the time it made the payment, but it decided to pay in order to avoid any unforeseen issues and ensure no data was exfiltrated.

The FBI has attributed the attack to REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months. The FBI said it will work to bring the group to justice and it urged anyone who is the victim of a cyberattack to contact the bureau immediately.

The attack targeted servers supporting JBS’s operations in North America and Australia. Production was disrupted for several days.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department announced it had recovered most of a multimillion-dollar ransom payment made by Colonial Pipeline, the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline.

Colonial paid a ransom of 75 bitcoin __ then valued at $4.4 million __ in early May to a Russia-based hacker group. The operation to seize cryptocurrency reflected a rare victory in the fight against ransomware as U.S. officials scramble to confront a rapidly accelerating threat targeting critical industries around the world.

It wasn’t immediately clear if JBS also paid its ransom in bitcoin.

JBS said it spends more than $200 million annually on IT and employs more than 850 IT professionals globally.

The company said forensic investigations are still ongoing, but it doesn’t believe any company, customer or employee data was compromised.


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