Calgary

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

The JBS Canada beef processing facility in Alberta has resumed production after a cyberattack that impacted the company's operations in North America and Australia.

World's largest meat processing company was the target of an organized cybersecurity attack

Brazil-based JBS is the world's largest meatpacker. The company was hit by a cyberattack in late May. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

The world's largest meat processing company says it paid the equivalent of $11 US million — a little more than $13 million Cdn — 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.

Alberta beef plant briefly closed

The JBS Canada beef processing facility in Alberta resumed production on June 2 after cancelling shifts after the cyberattack. The JBS Canada facility in Brooks, Alta., employs more than 2,800 people.

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

Colonial paid a ransom of 75 bitcoin — then valued at $4.4 million US — 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 US 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.

With files from The Canadian Press

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